On Tuesday as Maryland’s governor, legislators and educational professionals were condemning the very idea that armed security should play a role in protecting the state’s students, an armed School Resource Officer at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County confronted and took down a student shooter when he opened fire on fellow students.
It was a classic case of the presence of a “good guy with a gun” making all the difference. Tragically, the shooter managed to shoot two of his fellow students, but failed to wreak the havoc that took place not that much earlier in Florida.
Those participating in the march against guns in Washington ought to spend a few minutes comparing what happened in Maryland with what happened in Florida.
If they do, they may well conclude that President Trump and those advocating increased armed security make more sense than those who, like Sean McComb, an English teacher in Baltimore County who last week told a Baltimore Sun reporter, “I don’t think the presence of more guns will make children safer in schools.”
Or Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Teachers Association, who, in attacking the idea of arming teachers or anyone else in or near Maryland schools wondered how “could any elected official really believe that putting so many more guns in schools could make them safer.” She said rather than firearms, schools should be “armed” with “more school counsellors and psychologists.”
Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had a school resource officer who one would be hard pressed to describe as “a good guy with a gun.”
The man stood by as 17 people were being killed. He was part of a dysfunctional sheriff’s department that had for years refused to deal with potentially dangerous student activity at the school and ignored numerous reports not only that the student shooter was dangerous, but that he was actually planning to do exactly what he did.
It was to cover up their own incompetence and failure to provide trained resource officers to protect their students or act responsibly when warned of potential violence that the county sheriff was so anxious to blame others, including the National Rifle Association, for what happened on his watch.
In Maryland by contrast, the school resource officer was well trained, understood his responsibilities and unquestionably saved lives by acting quickly. And it turns out that last month, the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Department had also been warned that there might be trouble afoot within the school, and the reaction to that warning was decidedly different from what transpired in Florida.
When students at the school overheard talk about the possibility that someone might be contemplating shooting up the school, they reported their concerns to school officials and the school resource officer who, along with the sheriff’s department immediately launched an investigation.
The information available was far less specific than that imparted to law enforcement in Florida so authorities weren’t able to identify the potential shooter, but acted anyway to protect the kids attending the school.
In a message to the student body and parents following their investigation, the school’s principal wrote, “The threat to Great Mills High School has not been validated at this time. However, we will have additional security today and we will continue to investigate the source of the postings. Also, continue your vigilance and alert us to any information you may encounter. If you see something, say something.”
The principal and sheriff did not dispatch more counselors and psychologists to the school and they didn’t ignore the potential threat like their counterparts in Florida. They made sure the school’s students, faculty and parents knew they were ready to do what they needed to do to protect the students.
Meanwhile, those running the schools in Baltimore, a jurisdiction in which even school resource officers aren’t allowed to be armed, decided to spend a couple of hundred thousand dollars not on security or on the heating oil they needed to keep their schools warm this winter, but on buses to transport Baltimore students to Washington to join a march for gun control measures that wouldn’t have prevented what happened in Florida and, one presumes, to oppose what did work in St. Mary’s County in their home state.
• David A. Keene is an editor at large of The Washington Times and the former president of the National Rifle Association.