The May 18thmass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Sante Fe, Texas is both common, and unusual in at least one significant way. Even as the usual suspects ramp up their predictable rhetoric and faux-outrage, it is important to keep in mind this kind of crime remains notable primarily because of its rarity, and the desperation of the political left, which includes much of the media, to capitalize on each uncommon incident. Here’s what we know and don’t know:
*Ten were killed and thirteen were wounded. Two of the dead were teachers.
*Sante Fe High School is a mid-sized Texas high school of some 1400 students.
*The killer, a seventeen year-old student, intended to commit suicide, but lacked the courage. He would want his name mentioned here.
*The killer has confessed, saying, among other things, that he did not shoot people he liked:
According to the affidavit, [the killer] told investigators ‘he did not shoot students he did like so he could have his story told,” and authorities found journals on his phone and computer saying he was planning to commit suicide after carrying out the shooting.
*Some victims heard the killer shouting “woo hoo” and taunting his victims as he shot them.
*The most compelling motive to emerge thus far comes from the mother of one of the victims:
The mother of a 16-year-old girl who was killed along with nine others in Friday’s shooting at a Texas high school says she believes the suspect intentionally targeted her daughter.
Sadie Rodriguez, mother of Shana Fisher, said [the killer], 17, repeatedly made advances toward her daughter in the four months leading up to the deadly shooting.
[The killer] was an ex-boyfriend of Fisher’s best friend, Rodriguez added.
‘He kept making advances on her and she repeatedly told him no,’ Rodriguez toldthe Los Angeles Times via Facebook Messenger. ‘He continued to get more aggressive.’
The grieving mother said the week before the shooting, Fisher ‘stood up to him’ and ‘embarrassed him in class.’
‘A week later he opens fire on everyone he didn’t like,’ she wrote. ‘Shana being the first one.
The killer’s motivation may have been nothing more than adolescent rage at being rejected by a girl.
*The killer used two common and unremarkable firearms:a Remington 870 shotgun, perhaps the most ubiquitous shotgun in America, and a .38 caliber revolver of unknown make and configuration, both weapons belonging to his father. Some reports suggest the shotgun was “sawed off.” If so, that alone would be a federal felony., which hardly matters in the face of mass, premeditated murder.
*The killer routinely wore a long trenchcoat, which he apparently used to conceal both weapons.
*According to their attorney, the parents of the killer have no idea why he attacked, nor did they see it coming.
*According to his attorneys, the killer is “not doing well,” and is “confused.”
*The killer left some social media clues, which only in hindsight, seem marginally prophetic.
*While there are some reports from fellow students that the killer liked guns and talked about which he should buy when old enough, there were apparently no “red flags”:
Those who know him expressed shock that he might be involved in the massacre.
Michael Farina, 17, grew up with [the killer] and said he would play video games with him. He recalled Pagourtzis knew a lot about guns and remembered him asking which gun he should get when he was older.
‘I’m kind of dumbfounded,’ Farina said. ‘We didn’t get any warning.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott also commented:
Unlike Parkland, unlike Sutherland Springs, there were not those types of warning signs,’ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news conference Friday night. ‘The red-flag warnings were either nonexistent or very imperceptible.
*There were apparently two “school resource officers” present, one of which was a retired police officer. Some reports suggest at least one exchanged gunfire with the killer, and apparently both were injured. Whether they were actually certified law enforcement officers is unclear.
*Unlike virtually every other school shooting, it appears the police had at least some role in stopping the killer, though some reports suggest the killer voluntarily surrendered to police at some point after killing ten and wounding thirteen.
*The only currently available time frame suggests police “engaged” the killer four minutes after receiving a call. If so, this is a very fast response, but keep in mind one must add the time it took from the first shot for someone to get through to 911, and for the call to be dispatched. At Sandy Hook (Newtown, CT) that total time frame was nearly 10 minutes. I suspect that will turn out to be the case here as well.
*Accounts also suggest there was a 25 minute gun battle, but it appears the police did little shooting, and were successful in talking the killer out. We don’t know if he shot anyone else during that period, or if the victims were shot before he was “engaged” by the police. We also don’t know if “police” includes the two school resource officers, who were supposedly armed.
*Another, thus far unnamed, student was initially taken into custody as a potential suspect, though more recent reports suggest the killer was the only person involved.
*Some number of “bombs” were found at or near the school. News accounts suggest at least one pressure cooker without any explosive ingredients, and an unlit Molotov cocktail.
The usual cries for the banning of “assault weapons” are somewhat muted at the moment, as are the cries for “high capacity magazine” bans. Considering the killer used only a six shot revolver, and a shotgun holding probably no more than three rounds in the magazine, he must have reloaded more than once, perhaps each weapon more than once, a relatively slow process with either of those weapons. But how can this be? There were no high capacity magazines, no assault weapons.
But what about “comprehensive background checks”? Wouldn’t those have worked? Considering the killer was 17—too young to buy even a long gun—and apparently took the weapons from his father without his knowledge or permission, no. This was also the case at Newtown, where the killer took his mother’s weapons, first pausing to murder her as she slept.
But what about laws that require the purchaser of any weapon be at least 21? Wouldn’t they…oh.
Even though this attack, and others, expose the specific demands of anti-liberty/gun cracktivists as useless hot air, that has not for a moment stopped them from demanding vaguely unspecified “action.” Former Obama education secretary Arne Duncan has even advocated withdrawing every student from American schools until Congress passes gun control measures pleasing to him and the rest of the socialist Left.
How is it possible the killer could have injured and killed so many with such slow loading guns? Even non-experts can reload a revolver, cartridge by cartridge in around ten seconds. Reloading a shotgun with a three round magazine would take about the same amount of time. One should not imagine that the killer was able to fire single shotgun rounds and kill multiple people. The idea that limited capacity magazines and/or weapons would somehow save lives is, for the most part, nonsense.
A parent of a Sante Fe High School student made a pertinent observation:
A parent of one of the students told Fox News they drove to the school immediately after hearing about the shooting.
‘If it can happen in Santa Fe, Texas, it can happen anywhere,’ the parent said. ‘I mean, it’s just unbelievable.
As I noted at the beginning of the article, school attacks remain rare, but there is nothing preventing an attack at virtually any school at any time, particularly since most American schools remain uniquely vulnerable. Unfortunately, too many in positions of power seek only to damage the rights of people who are no threat to children whatsoever, while doing nothing to protect them:
People at the state level and the federal level in too many places in our country are not doing anything other than offering prayers,’ [Houston Police Chief Art] Acevedo told CBS’s Margaret Brennan on ‘Face the Nation.’
‘We need to start using the ballot box and ballot initiatives to take the matters out of the hands of people that are doing nothing that are elected into the hands of the people to see that the will of the people in this country is actually carried out,’ he added. [skip]
‘I know some have strong feelings about gun rights, but I want you to know I’ve hit rock bottom and I am not interested in your views as it pertains to this issue,’ he continued.
The will of the people was carried out when the Bill of Rights was adopted, and has been carried out repeatedly since. If Acevedo and those like him were correct, there would be no citizen ownership of firearms. They would all have been confiscated long ago. Anti-liberty/gun cracktivists constantly claim the public wants what they are selling but somehow, they can never seem to convince enough legislators to demolish the Second Amendment in fact or application. Acevedo took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and the laws of the State of Texas. It would seem he sees that oath, and the Constitution and those laws, as general guidelines.
Let us, gentle readers, explore an additional matter of contemporary interest: metal detectors and limiting building access. This is the latest hot “solution” to school shooters.
The many doors in schools are required by fire codes, and so are windows in or near those doors, and crash bars. Schools also have a large number of doors—as do virtually all buildings that accommodate hundreds or thousands of people–for convenience. Schools don’t just run from 8-4. They’re open at all hours and on weekends for a variety of activities. Since anyone can push a crash bar and leave a door ajar, absolute security is difficult at best, and even if every door could remain locked, they are not difficult to breach.
Imagine a high school of about 1400 students. Let us further imagine all doors other than a designated entry door could be absolutely secured and no one could enter or leave without the knowledge and permission of school authorities. What would this entail?
Setting up a metal detector at the single entry would be a large one-time expense, but maintenance costs would be ongoing. The most expensive part of this scheme would be armed personnel to man the entry portal. At least four would be required. Two would monitor everyone entering. When the system alerted, one would be required to use a hand-held metal detector, while another stood at a distance to cover them.
Take Johnny, who is wearing boots with buckles, hidden by his jeans. He steps thought the portal, and the detector alerts. While one officer watches the portal to regulate the flow and to keep anyone from sneaking through, another must take Johnny aside to check him with a hand held device. At the same time, at least one other officer must focus his attention on Johnny, who now represents a potential threat. If Johnny is actually armed, and suddenly draws a gun, the officer closest to him, focused on his metal detector wand, is going to be shot, which is why at least one other officer must be monitoring Johnny. This requires the officer watching the portal and another watching that officer in case anyone else tries to sneak through, or is working with Johnny to attack the school.
A substantial number of security personnel are also necessary in case a shooter simply walks through the portal and starts shooting. One or two people could easily be incapacitated or killed. More serve as a potential deterrent, and provide defense in at least some depth. This is what happened at Red Lake, MN in 2005. A teenaged shooter shot and killed a security guard posted at the door of the school, and continued his rampage, wounding seven and killing five.
Let us consider it will take 10 seconds for every student to pass through the portal; they can’t rush, but must walk through in an orderly, individual manner so the metal detector can properly scan them. That’s six per minute, 360 per hour. In other words, it would take nearly four hours for every student to enter the school at the beginning of each day, and that’s if there were no false alerts. Add in a hundred or so of those each day, and kids would spend nearly as much time just getting into the building as they would in classes. Cut the individual time in half—only five seconds rather than 10—and it would still take nearly two hours for every student to pass through the portal—if there were no false alerts. Multiple portals would cut down the time, but would require even more security personnel.
Keep in mind this scenario would also force long lines of students waiting to enter the building at a predictable time and place every day. The school would, in essence, be setting up perfect targets—sitting ducks–for a killer using firearms, explosives, or merely running people down with a motor vehicle.
If every door is to be controlled, that would require cameras to watch every possible door, and remotely controlled locks. Add another two to four full time personnel to watch the monitors, work the locks and keep in touch with roving security—far more in a bigger school.
Keep in mind the scenario assumes only a single school building, and few, if any, students or others entering or leaving during the school day. That is, of course, unrealistic. People are constantly coming and going from school buildings, a problem that is impossible to solve in schools with multiple buildings.
So what? Aren’t children’s lives worth extra expense? It’s not that simple. Consider that for most school districts, hiring a single additional teacher is a matter of substantial debate and penny pinching. Consider also that security personnel would be needed all day and whenever the school was in use. Consider also school resource officers—police officers doing traditional policing duties on campus—would still be needed; they can’t be constantly occupied with security duties.
I don’t suggest measures that would harden schools aren’t worth considering or implementing, but they are costly, particularly because virtually no American school has been designed with security in mind, they often create their own problems, and most do nothing to deal with a shooter or shooters that have breached the security perimeter.
As I have often written, the only measure that will not only deter killers, but may stop them before they can injure or kill anyone is arming as many willing staff members as possible with concealed handguns. Knowing that any teacher in any building may very well be armed is the only predictably effective factor that could cause a killer to choose a softer target, or to abandon a murderous plot entirely.
Ironically, it is this factor that will keep most school districts from taking this step. Once the process of arming staff begins, any school district refusing to do the same paints a large target on the backs of their children and teachers. If the Smithville district arms teachers, but the next-door Jonestown district does not, killers will simply choose the gun free schools of Jonestown. As poorly informed as many school boards and administrators are on security and firearm issues, they understand this. As horrifying as it sounds, a great many of them would prefer to keep their schools victim disarmament, free fire zones than actually deter killers and save lives. Maintaining the ideological purity of progressive narratives takes precedence. Feeling safe is much more important than being safe.
This incident also illustrates the folly of relying on even two armed security personnel. The shooting apparently began in an art class, and some time passed before the police—we still don’t know if that includes the two security guards—“engaged” the shooter. It is likely most of the victims were shot during that time, which was likely ten minutes or longer. If there had been enough armed staff, the number of wounded and dead could have been reduced or eliminated, and there would have been no 25-minute confrontation.
At Sante Fe high school, there was no deterrence. But even if deterrence fails, what matters is what a school is prepared to do, then and there, when an attack occurs,to save lives. All too often, the answer is panic, call the police, and hope they arrive in time to keep the body count acceptably low. This may sound harsh, but stubbornly maintaining gun free zones means accepting some number of wounded and dead when an attack happens. This must be acceptable to those school districts, or they’d implement the single policy that can deter and stop attacks—wouldn’t they?
“If it can happen in Santa Fe, Texas, it can happen anywhere.”