So there has been another school shooting, this time at a STEM school in Highlands Ranch, CO, not far from Columbine, on 05-07-19. The proximity has, of course, drawn specious comparisons in the media. The media have also “pounced,” as they are fond of accusing Republicans of doing, on their usual narratives for such events, which remain thankfully rare.
In writing about such events, I rely on media accounts, which are almost always wrong in significant ways. I will, as usual, make future corrections when more reliable information becomes available. Even so, there are valuable lessons that can be drawn from this case, but will almost certainly be widely ignored.
The attack was carried out by an 18 year-old male—a student of the school—and a 17 year-old juvenile female or possibly, according to PJ Media, “a transgender male transitioning to female.” Multiple shooters in school attacks are also rare, particularly female shooters. SMM generally does not publicize the names of shooters. Also according to PJ Media, the adult suspect—both were captured at the scene—1n 2014, made a social media post about hating Christians who hate gays, though this does not seem a likely motive for the attack as the STEM school is not Christian-affiliated.
The attack was stopped, not by the police, but by students, and possibly, an armed school security guard of some kind. We do not know if this was a school liaison officer—a police officer assigned to the school—or something else. Apparently, the attackers began shooting in separate rooms.
STEM School student Nui Giasolli tells the Today show that she and [Kendrick Ray] Castillo were in their British literature class when one student entered late, closed the door, pulled out a gun and ordered everyone not to move.
Castillo lunged to tackle him, she said, ‘giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room, to escape.’
Giasolli also said she is thankful that several other students acted together ‘to bring [the gunman] down.
Castillo was three days from graduation. Again from PJ Media:
Brendan Bialy, a Marine recruit, reportedlytackled one of the two suspects. An armed security guard at the school detained one of the shooters.
Bialy helped subdue the 18 year-old shooter. The Denver Post reports:
[Co. Gov. Polis] ‘Schools should really be places where students can learn and grow — safe places,’ the governor said. ‘You shouldn’t have to worry about being marched out or being airlifted to hospitals or even losing one’s life.’
Polis also thanked first-responders, who he said ‘prevented an even worse tragedy from unfolding.
According to most accounts, Polis is wrong about this. No gunfire was exchanged with deputy sheriffs, who apparently arrived reasonably quickly. It appears it was students and a school security guard that were responsible for stopping the attack. This, from Sheriff Spurlock is apparently relating to the female/trans attacker:
After the shooting Tuesday, police initially said they had two male suspects in custody. But they revised that account Wednesday, saying they have identified the juvenile suspect as a female:
‘You have to understand that this individual is a young person,’ Spurlock said, ‘This individual is a small young person, and the identity wasn’t definitively obvious to us when they were taken into custody.’
Kendrik Castillo’s sacrifice was apparently well considered, as USA Today reports:
An emotional John Castillo lauded his kind-hearted son as a hero. ‘I want people to know about him,’ he told ABC News.
He also told NBC that he talked with Kendrick about what to do in a school shooting, advising him ‘you don’t have to be the hero.’
But his son, who wanted to study electrical engineering in college, insisted he would act. ‘You raised me this way. You raised me to be a good person. That’s what I’m doing,’ Castillo recalled.
And as one might expect, anti-liberty/gun fanatics used the attack as an excuse for pushing gun control schemes over the bodies of the dead and wounded, this time as a supposed vigil organized by the student arm of the Brady Campaign, as The NY Post reports:
The students from STEM High School, where two gunmen killed a student and wounded eight others Tuesday, began yelling from the stands that they “wanted to be heard” after two politicians and pro-gun control advocates addressed the crowd, according to the local NBC affiliate, KUSA.
They then stormed out of the vigil after Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Democratic Congressman Jason Crow addressed the crowd, the Denver Post reported.
The kids chanted ‘Mental health’ and hurled expletives at the media, according to the report.
The students returned, and some of them took the microphone, saying their grief was being used for political purposes.
‘What has happened at STEM is awful. But it’s not a statistic. We can’t be used as a reason for gun control. We are people, not a statement,’ one student said, according to video by KUSA.
It’s good to see kids understanding what actual morality and virtue are. The Brady Campaign issued this statement:
Many of the school’s students have also agreed among themselves not to speak with the media. It must be very disappointing for the Left—media included–that the weapons used were apparently two handguns. There was apparently no AR-15/”assault weapon,” to be demonized.
As usual, the police appear to have had no role in stopping the attack or saving lives. As I’ve often written, this is not to denigrate them, but there are few of them, and their ability to respond will depend upon a variety of factors, many beyond their control, time and distance being among the most significant.
Kendrick Castillo was fundamental in stopping one of the attackers, but died in the attempt. Anyone charging an armed killer must expect to absorb bullets in the attempt. Obviously, he was able to immediately attack because he had mentally prepared, and this allowed others to recover from their initial shock/paralysis and secure that attacker. That, too, is relatively rare. Apparently at least one other student struggling with the 18 year-old attacker was shot twice, and six others were injured, some apparently critically.
If the authorities know anything about the other attacker, who was apparently stopped by the security guard(?), they’re not saying. We do know neither of them were old enough to purchase handguns in Colorado. Background check and similar gun control proposals would have had no effect.
“Run and Hide” drills are not entirely without value, but if that’s the only response model, kids and teachers are going to die, as they did here. The only reason many more did not die was apparently due to the mental preparation and courage of Castillo and other students, at least some of who were apparently wounded in the process. The police simply cannot respond quickly enough to save lives.
As always, the type of guns used was essentially irrelevant. The school attack with the highest body count remains the Virginia Tech attack—04-16-2007–where 32 were killed and 23 wounded. The killer used two common pistols in 9mm and .22LR calibers, and as is also common in such attacks, killed himself. The police played no role in stopping him. At Parkland, FL, the shooter killed 17 and wounded 17, and did use an AR-15. Do we therefore conclude that common handguns are more deadly than the supposed weapon-of-mass- destruction AR-15?
Note the student who said Castillo’s attack gave them time to escape the room or get under their desks. One of the greatest fallacies of the “run and hide” response is that kids trapped in a classroom are easy targets for a shooter who manages to enter. Even at Parkland, some of the victims were shot through classroom doors, which remained locked. They either take out the shooter or die. Hiding under a desk not only fails to conceal them, it only makes them easier targets. One should never imagine running to be a panacea. Students running in packed numbers down narrow hallways without cover or concealment are also easy targets.
Motive in such things may come down to nothing more than that the shooters wanted to do it and enjoyed it. Were they evil? Certainly. Mentally ill? Possibly. Even if we ever definitively know a motive in this, or any case, that knowledge will not allow us to prevent future school attacks.
There are three final lessons, lesson that apply to every school attack, we must learn, take to heart, and act upon:
1) There is no gun control measure that can prevent school attacks, or make them any less deadly when they occur. The worst school attack to date occurred in Bath, Michigan on 05-18-27. The killer used explosives to murder 44 and injure 58.
If it can happen in Santa Fe, Texas, it can happen anywhere. I mean, it’s just unbelievable.
If any school is to do everything it reasonably can to be safe, rather than feeling safe, those in authority must understand this, and implement the single, most effective means of deterring and stopping school attacks:
3) Schools must allow willing, capable teachers to carry concealed handguns, on their persons. Only this has the potential to deter attacks, and to stop shooters when and where they attack. Schools must publicize the fact that teachers and other staff are armed, but never reveal where they are or their numbers. Shooters attack in gun free zones for a reason.
While a few attacks might be thwarted in the planning stage, it is impossible to absolutely prevent them. Time and distance matter, to the police, to children and students hiding and waiting to be shot, and to anyone forced to attack a shooter unarmed. Better to let killers know they’re going to face armed and capable people if they’re foolish enough to attack a school. Better that they be shot and stopped immediately if they are that foolish. Better that no one—like Kendrick Castillo—have to give their life so virtue signaling leftists can maintain their ideological purity and force everyone else to live in a false, deadly delusion of “feeling safe.” Doing anything less is a profound failure of adult responsibility and a tacit acceptance of some number of wounded and dead.