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When are we going to do something about gun violence?
Last Monday, an 18-year-old West Geauga High School student was arrested for possession of a firearm. The student was in possession of a Smith and Wesson 9mm handgun and three fully loaded magazines. He planned to shoot multiple students at the school. The student has been charged with attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony; illegal possession of a deadly weapon in a school safety zone, a fifth-degree felony; and inducing panic, a first-degree misdemeanor, according to court records.
Luckily, another student found a 9mm bullet in a men’s bathroom at West Geauga High School and told the school’s resource officer and office staff. Tragedy was averted.
The school was locked down after the discovery and the students were eventually sent home for a couple of days. As would be expected, parents crowded the West Geauga Schools Board of Education meeting to express concerns about how the situation was handled. Maybe some of it is warranted.
But let’s review.
West Geauga is reportedly connected to a mental health provider. Obviously, it didn’t prevent this incident. But we can’t expect it to. Not every potential shooter is a student. Not all students are identified as having mental health issues. Not all students who are accept help. Even though more mental health services in schools would certainly help students and teachers, there is no guarantee that a situation like this would be caught beforehand.
So it's not all about mental health.
The school has a resource officer. I often hear how we need to solve the mass school shootings problem by having armed police onsite. But generally, that is a reactive solution. In this case, the students, teachers and other personnel simply got lucky. Another student found a bullet in the bathroom and reported it. If that student hadn’t found the bullet, the shooter may very well have carried out his plan.
How many students could have been shot by the time the resource officer was on the scene to stop the carnage? With the weapons he was carrying, every student in that classroom could have been shot before the resource officer even figured out where he or she was going.
So it's not all about that "good guy with a gun."
The school had a safety plan. But let me tell you a secret. Safety plans give people a false sense of security. You feel better because you have a plan. You feel like you have some level of control. But the feelings are oversized. You feel better than you should. Safety plans are limited in their effectiveness. Obviously, it is a good idea to have a safety plan, but don’t be fooled into a false sense of security. There is no way to plan for all scenarios. You can’t even think of all scenarios. I have written numerous safety plans and conducted tabletop exercises to validate those plans. What becomes clear is no plan adequately covers all realistic scenarios and doesn’t cover the ones you didn’t come up with. Certainly not a plan that is simple enough for people to actually learn and implement.
So it's not all about prepping beforehand.
I’ll give you an example. I frequently hear calls for “single points of entry” and metal detectors. But what’s the plan when someone pulls the fire alarm, and all the kids are ushered out the school in high density mobs and the shooter is waiting by the door? There are a million examples like this.
I don’t know the facts in this particular case. All I know is that it’s another kid in another school with another weapon capable of killing many people before anyone can even respond. The United States is the only comparable country with a problem of this magnitude and the difference is clear.
It’s about the number and accessibility of guns designed to kill people.
There are common sense reforms we can make that both protect the second amendment and prevent these mass shootings. The solutions won’t be perfect but we need to have the discussion.
We got lucky at West Geauga. But, if you have kids or grandkids in school, make sure you give them a hug and tell them that you love them on their way out the door because we might not get lucky next time. And sadly, I don’t expect that this incident will spur any action to reduce the risk, so luck is all we have.Back to News
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