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A Look At The Columbine High School Massacre, 20 Years On

On April 20, 1999 two teenagers entered their U.S. high school armed with shotguns, pistols and explosives, firing at their classmates and teachers.

The pair killed 13 people and wounded 20 more in the space of twenty minutes.

It's been two decades since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked through the doors of Columbine High school but the massacre has remained an enduring stain on a country that has witnessed numerous mass shootings with escalated violence in recent years.

Harris and Klebold murdered 12 of their fellow students and a gym teacher, before turning the guns on themselves. At the time, it was the largest mass shooting to take place inside a school.

The catastrophic events and the aftermath would change America forever.

Students mourning at the first anniversary memorial of the Columbine massacre. Source: Getty.
What happened at Columbine?

Entering the school dressed in trench coats, Harris and Klebold placed two nine-kilogram propane bombs in duffel bags in their school cafeteria -- both were intended to detonate at 11.17 am and the pair returned to their cars awaiting the explosion.

The pair had hoped the bombs would go off during the busiest lunch hour in the school, killing hundreds and they planned on shooting and stabbing students as they fled from the scene.

After the bombs failed to detonate, the teenagers entered the school armed with automatic handguns and sawed-off shotguns.

Harris and Klebold caught on the school's security footage during their rampage. Source: Getty.

At 11.19am the pair began firing at their peers.

The first person they killed was 17-year-old Rachel Scott, who was sitting eating her lunch on the grass outside the main entrance with a friend when she was shot multiple times by Harris.

Harris and Klebold then moved through the school, shooting students and tossing pipe bombs (that also failed to detonate).

The primary site of the massacre was inside the library, where the pair kept 56 hostage, taunting them as they randomly shot students. By the time they left the library at 11.36am, they had killed 10 and wounded 12 more.

An aerial view of Columbine High School. Source: Getty.

The shooters then killed themselves in unison, firing rounds into their own heads.

Investigators discovered that Harris and Klebold had been planning the massacre for over a year and planned to replicate the violence of the Oklahoma City Bombing of 1995 that killed 168 people.

The pair had acquired weapons through a friend despite being underage and had been practicing firing at targets for months in the lead-up to the mass shooting.

Harris and Klebold practising with their shotguns caught on home video. Source: Getty.

These target practices were captured on multiple home videos and both teenagers documented their plans in writing.

There was speculation that Harris and Klebold had been goth outcasts who were reaping revenge on 'popular' kids in a gang that they referred to as the Trenchcoat Mafia but this theory has been dispelled over time.

Eric Harris. Source: Getty.

Instead, it has been posited that Harris was a psychopathic figure who had manipulated the depressive Klebold into assisting his rampage.

How did Columbine affect responses to mass shootings?

In the wake of the massacre, law enforcement grappled to understand what had happened and were criticised for failing to stop the rampage earlier.

An exhaustive FBI review of the police activity at Columbine led to the drafting of rapid response strategies to active shooters.

Policemen and agents are now trained to travel swiftly towards the sound of gunfire rather than slowly clearing areas of potential victims. This is known as rapid deployment and only began in earnest following Columbine.

A program to train agents to take down active shooters was also funded by federal government agencies -- it is known as the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training or ALERRT course.

Students fleeing Columbine High School. Source: Getty.
Where did America go on gun control?

There have been no changes to gun control at the federal level since Columbine.

States have attempted to enforce their own restrictions but this has done little to stem the increasing frequency and violence of mass shootings in the US.

In 2018 there were more gun deaths at schools than during any other year on record.

However, the Columbine massacre did galvanise a movement for gun control in the U.S. and movements such as the student-led March For Our Lives have gained international attention.

Emma Gonzalez, a student from Stoneman Douglas High School at the March For Our Lives protest in 2018. Source: Getty.
Major Gun Violence At Universities and Schools Since Columbine

Virginia Tech - April 16 2007

This is the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, and at the time was the deadliest shooting by a lone gunman.

Seung-Hui Cho opened fire at West Ambler Johnston Hall and Norris Hall at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Cho shot 49 people -- 32 died while 17 were wounded. Another six were injured jumping from windows to escape the shooter. Before he could be captured by police Cho shot himself and died instantly.

Emergency vehicles outside Virginia Tech after the shooting. Image: AAP

Sandy Hook Elementary - December 14 2012

Adam Lanza, 20, murdered his mother before making his way to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

He fatally shot 20 students and six female staff members, with all but two of his victims shot multiple times. The shootings occurred mostly in a second grade classroom, with all of the students shot aged between six and seven.

Lanza shot himself as police closed in on him.

Children evacuated during the Sandy Hook shooting. Image: AAP

Parkland - February 14 2018

The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is the deadliest high school shooting in the U.S., overtaking Columbine.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, had been expelled from the school before returning and opening fire on his former schoolmates in hallways and classrooms. He killed 17 people and injured another 17. He escaped by blending in with escaping students, before being captured by police an hour later.

READ MORE: Parkland Shooting: A Nation Remembers The 17 Who Didn't Come Home From School

He was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder, and faces the death penalty or life without parole.

Days afterwards, survivors of the shooting, most notably David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, formed the Never Again MSD organisation to advocate for gun control in the U.S.

Students with their hands up evacuate Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Image: AAP

Santa Fe - May 18 2018

Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, was a student at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. He entered the school's art complex, shooting 23 of his classmates and teachers -- ten of which died.

READ MORE: Student Charged With Killing 10 In Texas High School Massacre

READ MORE: Texas Gunman Spared Lives Of Students He Liked

He was injured during the shooting before arrested. He was charged with two felony charges, capital murder of multiple persons and aggravated assault against a peace officer. He cannot face the death penalty in Texas because he was a minor at the time of the shooting.

Emergency vehicles out the front of Santa Fe High School. Image: AAP