How did the student killer at Arapahoe High School enter his school last Friday, armed to the hilt, without the slightest trouble? Something failed — either the rules, or the enforcement of the rules.
If there is no rule that a student old enough to purchase a gun legally is forbidden to enter school with a gun, there should be. And if there already is, it is obvious that new means of enforcement are necessary.
This, of course, is profoundly sad. Students in a free country should not need to see, and to be checked by, armed guards to enter school. School is about learning, growing, friendship, sports, fun, dreams, mentors — not about violence and mistrust. And if an armed guard and metal detector at the entrance of every school sends any message at all, it is about mistrust. About wondering whether a fellow student might do what Karl Pierson just did.
That said, what choice is there? It is pertinent to recall the Talmudic statement that a person who saves a single life, it is as if an entire world has been saved. This, because each life is capable of begetting endless generations. The life of each student, each infinitely valuable life, must take precedence over the ugly specter of making our school entrances look like airport security lines.
Perhaps there is some consolation in knowing that after the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, many good thinkers in education and law enforcement put their heads together and came up with ways to cope far more safely with school shooters. Pierson was able to inflict far less damage than Harris and Klebold, even though he seems to have been armed just as heavily — this, due to much improved school safety procedures. Perhaps the same good thinkers can figure out a relatively unintrusive and unobtrusive way to check students for guns before they make it into schools and their related facilities.
Meanwhile, we pray for the recovery of Claire Davis and mourn for the losses she is sure to experience, even if she does recover. We pray — and we await full disclosure of the nature of the relationship between Pierson and the man he sought to kill, his debate coach. Perhaps Pierson was merely an evil man, old enough to buy a gun and malicious enough to use it, and the behavior of the coach was exemplary. We hope so. But perhaps there is something to be learned from that relationship that might have played a role in spurring Perison to act, and that might be done very differently in the future.
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