Reynolds High School tragedy: more laws are not the answer

Dan Lucas_July 2012_BW

by Dan Lucas

On Tuesday morning a 15-year-old killer murdered fellow student Emilio Hoffman, age 14, and wounded a teacher at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon. The killer brought an AR-15 type rifle, a semi-automatic pistol and enough ammunition to do far more harm – but he was stopped before he could by police. The police were aided by a brave teacher and by a well-practiced school lockdown. After being confronted and exchanging gunfire with police, the killer committed suicide. Police also found the killer had brought a large knife.

Within hours, politicians were already attempting to exploit the tragedy – including Oregon’s U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, who were calling for expanded background checks.

More laws are not the answer

Further expanding background checks in Oregon – already one of the most restrictive states for background checks – would not have stopped the 15-year-old killer. It’s already illegal for anyone under 18 to purchase a firearm in Oregon, and this killer didn’t buy the guns – he took them – by defeating his family’s security measures where the guns were secured.

Additionally, the 15-year-old killer at Reynolds brought firearms and a large knife into a high school despite school policies banning weapons, Oregon state law prohibiting bringing or having a weapon at school, and the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act.

The killer was also in violation of ORS 166.250 (unlawful possession of firearms) even before he got to the school because he was under 18, and he was in violation of the Multnomah County gun control ordinance passed last year.

The 15-year-old killer violated many, many existing weapons-related laws – and none of those laws stopped him.

What did work?

Reynolds High School has two full-time officers on campus every day – and they were on the scene in less than a minute – and they are being credited with stopping the killer before he could inflict more carnage.

After Sandy Hook, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre advocated for a police officer in every school. He said “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The media, who widely ridiculed and mocked him at the time, is largely ignoring this important part of the story. It’s important because it actually worked to save lives at Reynolds.

What also worked was the bravery of a Reynolds teacher, who sounded the alert that initiated the school lockdown even though he had been wounded. A lockdown that had recently been practiced. KOIN reported “Police said the response from school staff, police and students prevented ‘many, many’ deaths, given the amount of ammunition [the killer] carried. Troutdale Mayor Doug Daoust said Reynolds High had participated in an active shooter drill in the weeks leading up to June 10.”

What more can be done?

There needs to be a continued focus on mental health, including increasing funding where it’s needed. More schools should have armed law enforcement present. The media should stop giving publicity to the killers. There needs to be more funding for prosecutors, police and jails so that existing laws can be enforced.

Additionally, there needs to be public pressure on the media to stop perpetuating false and highly emotional data and perceptions. For example, all the irresponsible news agencies who reported there have been 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook in Newtown, CT. The 74 number came from Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety. CNN has since taken the time to investigate the number and found the actual number to be 15.

It is indicative of how gun control groups are willing to stretch the truth to achieve their agenda. When they do that, and when the media parrots it, it makes rational discussion much more difficult.

Please let’s move off of fixed political agendas and focus on what works to keep our children and everyone safer.

UPDATE (11/12/2014): The Oregonian reported that the guns used by Jared Padgett had been locked up: “Investigators determined that the AR-15 rifle that Padgett used in the school shooting had been locked in a Pelican-brand gun case in the bedroom he shared with his older brother, Lucas Padgett. A .25-caliber handgun found on Jared Padgett after he had killed himself with the rifle the day of the June 10 shooting had been locked in his father Michael Padgett’s bedroom, investigators concluded.”

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