Parkland, FL, Uvalde, TX, Newtown, CT, St. Louis, MO. These cities have something in common: all four were victimized by school shootings.
According to security.org, there have been 969 school shootings in the United States since the Columbine High School shooting on April 20, 1999. During those 969 school shootings, 392 people were killed, including faculty members and students.
On Oct. 24, a shooter entered the Central Visual and Performing Arts School in St. Louis, which is just 6.2 miles from Webster University’s main campus. KSDK reported that the gunman killed a staff member and a student whilst injuring seven others. The next day, three students at separate schools in the St. Louis area, including a 14-year-old, were arrested for bringing handguns to school.
What makes this shooting worse is that it could’ve been potentially avoided if Missouri had red flag laws. According to the Washington Post, 19 states and Washington D.C. have red flag laws that allow family, doctors and even law enforcement to remove weapons from houses for up to a year if they feel that someone is a threat to themselves or others.
Why doesn’t every state have red flag laws? They’re simple, they’re proven to save lives and they already exist in almost half of the states. This isn’t even a partisan issue because both Democratic-run states and Republican-run states have red flag laws.
The Washington Post also reported that Florida’s red flag laws have been used over 8,000 times in the last four years and saved countless lives. However, the problem was that Florida didn’t put these laws into place until after the shooting in Parkland. Yet another school shooting could have been avoided if Florida acted sooner.
A change that has been made, however, are intruder drills. These drills prepare students for what never should’ve been an issue: someone with a gun in their school. When talking to friends from other countries, they are shocked to hear about this phenomenon in America.
Most people who graduated before Columbine don’t understand what these drills are like, though. As early as kindergarten, we are given slideshows on what to do if there was someone with a gun in our school. I graduated from Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, MO, and two years later, I remember these lessons. They were taught multiple times per year – not to scare students, but because it’s necessary.
Parkway Central taught us the four E’s: Educate, Evade, Escape and Engage. Engaging is last on the list because it’s the most dangerous option. It involved confronting active shooters by throwing something at them or finding a way to get the gun out of their hands.
If – and only if – the gun falls out of the shooter’s hands, we were taught to cover it with a trash can. This is a terrifying thought because if the shooter wasn’t hurt when the gun was dropped, they are still angry and trying to kill people. Anyone standing between the shooter and their weapon is a huge target.
Before engaging, students are given places to go if they are lucky enough to escape the building. Windows could be broken to crawl out, and we’d run out the nearest exit if we knew the shooter was on one end of the building. I remember that the choir room at Parkway Central had a door that led right outside, which would be our first escape plan assuming the gunman isn’t near.
The evade tactics are the scariest, and that’s what we practiced the most. Students are taught to barricade doors and hide in a corner that can’t be seen from the windows or the door. Alarms sounded over the intercom, saying “Intruder Alert, Intruder Alert.” The drills ended when a police officer knocked on the door to give an “all clear” signal, or when we got on buses at the safe spots.
Students have become accustomed to the drills, but they hope they never have to use what they learned. That being said, I still remember our safe points because of how much they were drilled into us. There were separate points for Parkway Central and the middle school next door, but I could still point out the two spots that I knew to go to in middle school.
During a drill in high school, my choir class walked until we could see the safety checkpoint. The principal told us over a megaphone that we should go there if a shooting happened. Buses would meet us there, and we would meet our parents at the checkpoint. We were told not to drive away in our cars because they wanted to make sure that everyone was accounted for.
The intruder drill I remember the most vividly was in fourth grade, when we used the evade method. I remember that there was a cove in our classroom that was down a couple of stairs; there were beanbags and books for when we had time to read, but when the intruder alert went off, the cove became our hiding spot.
We knew it wasn’t a real shooting, and we knew the police officer that did the intruder alert noise recording, but that didn’t make it less stressful for my class. I remember my heart kept beating harder and faster. Some kids started crying, and others sat in silence until the drill ended, but I still remember that one kid who rocked back and forth the entire time.
Once we got to middle school, we were told not to use our phones, because even though the door was locked and the blinds were closed, an intruder could still see light from a screen. We were also taught not to call 911 because that was the teachers’ job, and it kept the phone lines clear for the officers to arrive faster.
Two of the aforementioned cities experienced shootings at their local elementary schools, and I practiced these traumatizing drills at that age, too. What could anyone have against an elementary schooler? One day, they are playing kickball on the playground, and the next day, their lives are threatened and taken. The gunmen for these two shootings were 18 and 20 years old, just about 10 years older than the kids they killed.
Even after 969 shootings and over 300 deaths, there still isn’t enough change. Intruder drills are a band-aid fix to a chronic problem. United States citizens have too much access to guns, especially assault weapons. It’s gotten to the point where there was a serious talk about whether teachers should be trained to shoot and carry guns with them at school. Imagine a world where every teacher packs a gun on their waist because there aren’t enough restrictions and laws.
Students are scared to go to school, parents are scared to send their kids to school and teachers are scared to go to work. How many more people in schools have to die before real change happens?