Who Will Protect Our Children From School Massacres?
By: Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on February 18, 2018
February 14, 2018, was Valentine’s Day in America. It was also the day 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 students and adult staffers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. More than a dozen others were injured during this massacre. Cruz used a semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifle to carry out his killing spree.
The Parkland school shooting reminded Americans of the December 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 six and seven-year-old children were murdered inside their school, along with six adult staffers, by 20-year-old Adam Lanza before he committed suicide. Lanza used a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle to carry out his massacre.
It also rekindled memories of the April 20, 1999, school massacre at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado where senior students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 students and one teacher. The killers also injured 21 additional people. After exchanging gunfire with responding police officers, the pair committed suicide.
According to investigative reports, Harris was equipped with a 12-gauge Savage-Springfield 67H pump-action shotgun (which he discharged a total of 25 times) and a Hi-Point 995 Carbine 9 mm carbine with thirteen 10-round magazines (which he fired a total of 96 times). Klebold was equipped with a 9×19mm Intratec TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun with one 52-, one 32-, and one 28-round magazine and a 12-gauge Stevens 311D double-barreled sawed-off shotgun. Klebold primarily fired the TEC-9 handgun for a total of 55 times, while he discharged a total of 12 rounds from his double-barreled shotgun.
The Parkland school massacre, which was the 208th school shooting incident since Columbine, was particularly painful because the Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to follow up on a January 5, 2018 tip it received about Cruz. In a written statement issued after the massacre, the FBI acknowledged that a person close to Cruz called the Bureau's tip line and gave the FBI information on Cruz’s “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” This information was never passed on to the FBI’s Miami field office for agents to investigate. As a result of this breakdown in communications, 17 innocent people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School died in a preventable school massacre.
Prayers From National Leaders
President Donald Trump and Congressional leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell condemned the Parkland school massacre. They also offered prayers for the victims and their families. To date, none of them has offered a practical solution for stopping or curbing school massacres.
The National Rifle Association, which supported the recent political campaigns of President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, is laying low. In Washington, the NRA has the political clout to kill any Congressional legislation that would make it harder for emotionally disturbed people like Nikolas Cruz to acquire assault weapons for mass murders.
For decades, the NRA has imposed its political will on Congress in a successful effort to dictate America’s policies on gun registrations and background checks. No amount of school massacres seems to loosen the NRA’s grip on Congress.
The NRA also knows that most members of Congress are willing to sell out their constituents as soon as their right hand comes off the swearing-in Bible. Loyalty to constituents is frequently replaced with loyalty to powerful lobbyists and the perks they can provide to members of Congress (e.g., flights on private aircraft; VIP tickets to sports and entertainment events; campaign donations; PAC money; after-hours adult entertainment; etc.).
The parents of school children cannot compete with the NRA’s political grip on members of Congress. To many pro-NRA members of Congress, the victims in school massacres are expendable. For these NRA flunkies, it is easier to say a prayer for the victims and their families than it is to buck the NRA by imposing stronger background checks on emotionally disturbed people who seek to acquire assault weapons for school massacres.
Where Do We Go From Here?
President Trump and Congressional leaders will not support any meaningful gun control legislation that will protect our school children from school massacres.
In the absence of leadership from Washington, local school boards must step up to protect our school children. The students themselves will also have to shoulder more responsibility for their own safety.
Local school boards must start by providing school children in grades K-12 with specialized survival training that teaches them the defensive measures they can take when a school massacre is occurring at their school. This training must be mandatory and conducted on periodic basis throughout the school year.
Local boards must also beef up police protection inside school buildings and around the campus parameter. SWAT officers should serve as campus security officers. We have them present at major airports across America. Now we need them to safeguard our public schools. These SWAT officers must be on onsite at all times to deter a massacre and quickly respond to one.
Fortunately for them, President Trump and Congressional leaders do not have to worry about their personal security. Well-trained security teams are assigned to their family members and themselves. We pay for this security with our tax dollars.
Our children and grandchildren are just as important to us as the children and grandchildren of President Trump and Congressional leaders are to them. Our children and grandchildren deserve beefed up security with the best security teams that local police departments can provide.
Until there is leadership in Washington that is willing to tackle the disturbing trend of school massacres, these practical solutions are the best we can do to make schools a safer place for our children.
The Columbine Killers.
The Columbine High School Victims
The Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims
The Aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Massacre
Bearing the Unbearable After the Parkland School Massacre