I live in South Florida, just up the coast from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and teachers were gunned down and murdered Wednesday. I have a son in a school less than one hour from the high school where the shooting took place.
As someone trained in psychology who researches these topics all the time, this one hit too close to home. These victims are my kids’ friends, and my friends’ kids.
As soon as I learned about the shooting and determined that my own children were safe, I headed to the shooting site to comment on Fox News, as I often do after stories break where psychological answers are sought. I also wanted to talk to the students and see how I could be helpful.
I thought I would be pulled aside and tapped to listen to students and hear about how they were processing what they were feeling. But these kids had a different purpose: they wanted me to take a message to you that they thought the media was missing.
The students made one thing clear: They don’t want this shooting and their dead friends and faculty to be another flash-in-the-pan news story that changes nothing and is forgotten until the next shooting.
They want to be the catalyst to change so that this tragedy didn’t happen in vain, and they want the lives of their dead friends and faculty to mean something real and tangible.
As we try to make sense of the senseless, we can’t lose the voice of the voiceless in this.
The killer had his say. The media are having their say. The politicians will continue to have their voices heard in the months and years to come.
But what happens when the next story breaks and the people of Parkland are yesterday’s news?
Where are the victims’ families and the wounded who survived after the Oct. 1 Las Vegas mass shooting now? What ever happened in that investigation? What did we learn? What has changed since a gunman murdered 58 people and wounded hundreds before taking his own life?
What has changed since the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in April 1999, where 13 people were shot dead and the killers committed suicide?
To the students in Florida today, the answer is not enough. Clearly not enough, since school shootings keep happening.
What can we do?
Students told me they want meaningful change. Some spoke about guns, or mental health, but almost all recognized those are political answers to a problem that is spiritual. Most admitted frustration with the answers available.
One answer that the students seemed to take comfort in was the idea of focusing on prevention. They told me if this could be the last mass school schooling, then that would be meaningful to them.
How nice would it be if those on the right and those on the left could put all their politics aside – from the gun issue, to the mental health debate – and focus on what we can all agree on?
Many have suggested that we have retired military members in plain clothes protect our schools, like the air marshals who travel on some flights. Along with extensive airport security measures, the air marshals have prevented airline hijacking since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Funding is the obvious issue. What if that funding were inserted into the infrastructure bill? Who could argue with that? My friend suggested this to me, and I suggested this on “Hannity” Friday night, speaking from the site of the mass shooting.
Why not? Imagine for a moment if a history teacher was a highly trained, packing, protective, passionate, patriotic, plain-clothed veteran protecting our children.
We know the Florida killer wanted to live. That’s why he chose a gun-free zone with victims that he knew would be unprotected and unarmed. That’s why he walked right out of the crime scene and blended with the school kids, wearing their school hoodie to look like one of them. He wanted to escape.
If the gunman had known that there were retired military carrying protection mixed in with faculty, would he have chosen that school that day? Would any of the killing or injury even have occurred?
Killers kill. I know that. We know the gunman tortured animals and that is a horrendous symptom of sociopathy. But if he had not known the school was unprotected that day and how to amass his victims, would he have stuck to killing animals, or sought help in a stronger moment?
Since most of the carnage in such shootings happens within the first five minutes, hoping that police get there in time to save many lives is unrealistic. Solutions such as training and arming retired members of the military to provide security for schools is a newer idea that spares us the gun-control partisanship.
My prediction is that America is ready to do something about this, and I believe we will see President Trump pushing such measures. I am certainly hopeful.
The fact that the gunman is alive may shed some light on the psychology that we usually don’t have, because most of these shooters die or kill themselves at the end of these shootings.
Another advantage to capturing the shooter alive is that the survivors can see justice done through the criminal justice system, when they see the murderer convicted and sentenced in court. Court documents show that the teenager arrested after the shooting has confessed.
Let’s hope we can get more answers out of this killer, let’s pray justice prevails, and let’s act on new commonsense measures to ensure this never, ever happens again.