This is a really good article and the truth has been a long time coming.
We have created a boogeymen to frighten ourselves and our children.
This isn’t to say that a school shooting, or any active shooter incident, isn’t traumatic. They are tragic and they leave lasting scars, both physical and emotional.
But we have taken what are fairly rare events and turned them into some kind of macabre circus and we have spared no opportunity to build the hysteria and fan the flames.
Ballistic backpacks, calls for more gun laws, active shooter drills, the March for our Lives, the list goes on and on.
We’re desperate to make it at least look like we’re doing something about a problem we don’t know how to resolve, so we do irrational things.
Ballistic backpacks, for example. Most have what is known as Level IIIA protection. Sounds pretty good but Level IIIA won’t stop bullets fired from an AR-15. It will stop buckshot and even slugs fired from a shotgun, but there is a high risk of serious injury from the impact, especially on the body of a young child. Doctors call this blunt force trauma and it can be deadly.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy, calls for new gun laws went out. More background checks, a renewed assault weapons ban: pretty much the same thing we see today. In fact, Senator Kamela Harris recently suggested that legislators that have been reluctant to pass gun control legislation should be locked in a room with the autopsy photos of the children murdered at Sandy Hook.
Yet nobody ever seems to question whether they would do any good. In the case of Adam Lanza, there wasn’t a single gun law proposed that would have prevented Lanza from murdering small children, teachers and school staff.
In fact, the majority of mass shooters pass background checks, sometimes multiple background checks, including the more rigorous state background checks required in California.
How about assault weapons bans? The truth is that average rate of rifle use in homicides was actually lower in the ten years after the original ban expired than it was during the ban.
Following the Parkland shooting, there was a big call to raise the legal age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21.
The Colt AR-15 went on sale in 1964. A semi-automatic version of the AK-47 was introduced in 1976. Since that time, exactly two people under the age of 21 have used a military-style rifle that they purchased themselves in a mass shooting. The first was Dean Mellberg in 1994; the second was Nikolas Cruz.
There are an estimated 12.7 million young American adults in the 18–20 age group. Exactly one of them used a legally purchased assault rifle in a mass shooting.
There are an estimated 15 million assault rifles in civilian hands today, including at least five million AR-15s. In the 54 years since the introduction of the AR-15, a total of 35 have been used in mass shootings.
This may be difficult to accept, but it is the truth. It’s not NRA propaganda, it is data released by law enforcement agencies.
The Center for Homeland Security and Defense released what appears to be an alarming number of 96 school shootings in 2018, a new record. But when one takes a look at the incidents, a somewhat different picture emerges. The CHSD counts any incident involving a firearm as a school shooting. you might be amazed at what a broad range that definition affords.
When it comes to what the public considers a school shooting, there were three, one each at Marshall County High School, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and Santa Fe High School.
In the 2018 calendar year, there were 41 students killed and 103 injured. That includes active shooting incidents, drive-by shootings, suicides and homicides occurring outside of the school day. This doesn’t include staff members or teacher, just students, because they are the ones we are scaring. It also doesn’t include the shooters themselves (unless it was a suicide).
The FBI estimates that an average of 450 children are murdered by their own parents each year. That’s almost eleven times the number of children murdered in school shootings.
Any way you slice it, young people are less likely to be killed in an American K-12 public schools than anywhere else.
What we have done is taken tragic, but rare, incidents and blown them up into an existential threat. We have taken that threat and rammed it down our children’s throats.
But let me share a relatively successful intervention that stopped a school shooter. A 14-year-old student in Richmond, Indiana intended to commit a mass shooting at a local school. The shooter’s mother noticed something suspicious when her son left for school and called the school. The school went into lockdown and alerted the police. When the student arrived, he was confronted by local police officers and Indiana State Police. The school was locked and the youth tried to shoot his way in and exchanged gunfire with police. Frustrated, the young man used one of the guns he brought with him to end his own life. As I said, it was a relative success; the alert mother probably saved many lives but at a terrible cost.
One alert mother probably saved more lives than all the ballistic backpacks and all the current and proposed gun laws combined.
There are problems with students bringing guns to school. Nobody is denying that. Even if they are never fired, they shouldn’t be there. Pubic schools have been gun-free zones since 1994 and there are severe, mandatory penalties for unauthorized possession of a firearm on school grounds.
But there are ways to reduce the number of incidents and the only new laws we might want to add is for states to enact parental responsibility laws and to promote safe storage. Let’s face it, any gun owner should know where their guns are and if they are secure. There are even ways to ensure that guns kept for home defense are secured. These things could be combined in a meaningful effort to promote real gun safety. 486 people were killed by accidental firearm discharges in 2017. In a nation of 325 million, that’s a tiny number but anything we can do to reduce it is good.
The one thing we can do without any legislation at all is to banish the boogeyman. And the way to do that is to become involved with our children’s schools.
In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, the state of Florida created a commission to investigate. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD)Commission released its preliminary report in January of this year. The commission was composed of law enforcement professionals, including four county sheriffs, and legislators, school administrators and parents.
The findings didn’t get much attention, perhaps because it didn’t fit the media and political mold, but they are significant.
While the MSD Commission placed blame for the shooting entirely on Nikolas Cruz, it reported that Broward County had enabled the incident. At the high school, misguided policies, lax security, inexperienced and untrained administration and staff members allowed Cruz’s tendencies to fester and then allowed him to gain entrance to what was supposed to be a closed campus. The MSD Commission called the response of Deputy Scot Peterson, the school resource officer, “abysmal” and was harshly critical of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office’s handing of the incident. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently removed Sheriff Scott Israel from office, in part because of the Parkland shooting.
The commission members were quite upset to learn that the administrators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School still had not corrected any of the deficiencies even nine months after the shooting. This included things that would have not cost the district anything at all to implement.
Every parent of a school-aged child is a stakeholder. In fact, every citizen is a stake holder; those kids are our future, too.
States have standards for school security. Find out how your child’s school measures up. This has nothing to do with armed teachers, school resource officers or metal detectors at every entrance. Does the school secure entrances? Does it require visitors to check in at the office? Do teachers and staff members have a clear understanding of procedures in the event of an active shooter incident? Can they verify this?
If you want more, are you willing to pay for it? School budgets across America have been slashed, we don’t need any more cuts to the curriculum or staff. So if we want well-trained responders, armed or not, or the installation of various types of security systems, the money has to come from somewhere.
By getting involved, you can show your children that everyone is woking to keep them safe. Start reassuring them instead of stressing them.
Banish the boogeyman.