Opinion

What the principal used to tell the kids at Columbine

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Thursday, August 8, 2019, an unidentified 20-year-old man wearing camo clothes, a bulletproof vest; carrying 100 bullets, a rifle, and a second gun, walked into a Missouri Walmart. He was spotted immediately by an off-duty firefighter with a concealed carry permit who held a gun on the 20-year-old until police arrested him.

No shots were fired. No one was killed.

In 1997, 16-year-old Mississippi student Luke Woodham “woke up, stabbed his mother to death, then came to campus carrying a .30-30 lever-action rifle,” reports The New York Times. Woodham shot a student and, as he was reloading, Assistant High School Principal Joel Myrick, who heard the shot, ran to his truck, grabbed/loaded his Colt .45 handgun, held Woodham at gunpoint, and stopped the shooter.

I wonder. Is the answer to stopping shooter rampages stricter gun control laws? Or is the answer to better enable skilled, trained gun owners to carry concealed weapons in public places?

Actually, I think the last thing America needs now is more hasty, politically motivated, unconstitutional, gun control laws. There are too many poll-driven politicians and agenda driven media spokespeople — many with questionable judgement — at the forefront of this serious discussion.

I’ve met people who, as New York City high school students, carried their rifles from home, on the subway or bus, along the sidewalk, to their school rifle club meetings. These kids weren’t going on public shooting sprees.

The same types of stories, minus the subways, are told about life with guns in Maine. I’m sure all the states were the same. In truth, most gun owners in America are responsible, law abiding citizens.

How did America get from there to here?

Frank DeAngelis was principal at Columbine High School during the 1999 shooting massacre that killed 12 students and one teacher. One of the shooters confronted, shot at, and missed Principal DeAngelis when the shooter was distracted by another teacher who he shot and killed.

In a recent Team Never Quit podcast, hosted by two US Navy SEALS, DeAngelis was asked, What do you feel is the solution to this? Where do you think we need to be looking on this?

“One of the things that really worried me, especially after Parkland, is when you had people coming out, and some politicians, stating that, ‘If we had tougher gun laws I can guarantee you there’s never going to be another school shooting or an act of violence.’ And that’s just one piece to the puzzle. There’s not just one thing,” DeAngelis answered.

The Columbine principal also cited the change in nuclear families. A baby boomer, DeAngelis grew up in a home where his mother was able to stay and raise the kids.

Today, DeAngelis sees “a lot of kids being raised by aunts, uncles, grandparents.”

First and foremost, he said, “Kids need to feel safe, and kids need to feel wanted.”

DeAngelis said we also need to look seriously at mental health, at threat assessment programs, and social media’s impact on kids. “Social media plays such a major part. We need to know what our kids are doing with social media, [both] positive and negative,” he said.

DeAngelis raised a point new to me. He said, “We talk about these shootings that have continued to happen, but how many have been stopped because of things we’re doing differently now that were not in place [during Columbine]?

“The media does not let us know how many [shootings] have been stopped. They don’t report that there have been thousands of school shootings stopped because we are informing our kids,” he said.

“I would be willing to bet, in any schools around this country, students know before adults do a lot of times because of social media,” DeAngelis said, adding, “We cannot underestimate what I used to tell kids at Columbine: If you see something, say something. If you hear something, say something.”

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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