Sunday, June 15, 2014

Yet Another School Shooting

(UPDATED -- see below)

It's been a sad week in Oregon.  There are shootings almost every day in Oregon, but this week has been more shocking than most.  Once again, guns got into the wrong hands -- a teen, who then took them to school and killed someone.  In this case, there are two teens dead (including the shooter) and one man injured.

Shooter Jared Padgett (source)
On Tuesday, June 10, 15-year old Jared Padgett woke up in the morning and broke into his father's "secured" guns, stealing an AR-15 assault rifle with nine magazines of ammunition "capable of firing several hundred rounds," a semi-auto handgun, and a knife, put them into a guitar case and duffel bag, and went to school on the school bus.  When asked by other students what was in the case and bag, he said they contained sports gear and a stand for his uniforms.  Once at his school, Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon, he donned a "non-ballistic vest used for carrying ammunition and a multi-sport helmet" and entered into a locker room.  There he shot to death 14-year old Emilio Hoffman, shooting him twice in the chest, and encountered PE teacher and track coach Todd Rispler, grazing the man in the hip with a bullet.  Students said that it "sounded like fireworks were going off inside the school," from all the shots being fired.  Rispler fled from Padgett and went to the office, where he initiated a school-wide lockdown procedureTwo armed school resource officers, Nick Thompson and Kyle Harris, then found Padgett in the halls and exchanged fire with him.  Padgett retreated to a men's bathroom.  Eventually, as more police and SWAT responded, and the school were being evacuated, hands on heads, to a nearby Fred Meyers parking lot to awaiting, panicked parents, a remote-controlled robot with a camera went into the bathroom and found Padgett dead in a stall from a self-inflicted gunshot wound
Todd Rispler (source)

But the gun crimes weren't over.  One other boy, unrelated to the shooting, was found to have a gun on him on school grounds as he sat in a classroom.  He was arrested and taken away.  Why did he have a gun, and where did he get it?  Was he planning on shooting someone, too, unrelated to the Padgett's shooting??

And another man, 21-year old Joseff Powell, who feared for his 15-year old freshman sister's safety, had rushed to an evacuation area at a church, where students were being corralled, evaded a police checkpoint, and was caught with a unlawfully concealed, loaded 9mm semi-auto handgun.  The man claimed "he didn't realize" he had a weapon on him.

Why did young Jared decide to go shooting at his high school?  According to his own diary, he was on a mission to cleanse the world of "sinners."  He was a religious fundamentalist and, since age 12, a deacon in the local Mormon church, where he was thought of as "being quiet" but "highly regarded for his spirituality" by church elders.

But it was more than this, wasn't it?  His parents had just gone through a messy divorce, and his father, no doubt a very pro-gun person, since he owned an assault rifle, had custody of Jared and at least one of his five siblings.  Doubtless this affected young Jared's mindset.  Had his father instilled in him any of the pro-gun paranoia I often report on here at New Trajectory?  I do not know.

And though Jared was, in many ways, a "normal kid" who liked to talk about girls and cars and often seemed friendly, he was also known to be "conceited at times", talk back to teachers, and had an anger streak.

He also "showed off about guns" to his friends, talking about his guns and bullets at home, and "loved guns," and got training in arms as a member of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Core (JROTC) as a means of one day entering the military.  One can assume, then, that he was trained in gun safety and had gotten all the admonitions about handling guns inappropriately.  Doubtless he went shooting with his father, too. 

Just to re-emphasize:  this boy, who was known to have angry outbursts, arms training, and an unstable family life, and who "showed off about guns," was in a household with guns which were clearly not secured well enough.

14-year old victim, Emilio Hoffman (source)
And as for the young victim, Emilio Hoffman, one of the 3000 or so children shot to death in America a vigil was held in his honor with candles and prayers.  Services are scheduled for June 22.  Likely he wasn't targeted by the shooter, but was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  According to an article:
each year in America,

He enjoyed science, history and played on the Reynolds Raiders junior varsity soccer team. Coaches tweeted that he was "a great soccer player and a great friend."
“Soccer was his whole life,” Jennifer Hoffman said.
After his death was announced Tuesday, there was an outpouring of support for him on social media.
“Emilio loved his friends, and his friends loved him. You couldn't be around Emilio without laughing,” his mother said Wednesday. “Anyone who has ever met Emilio laughed with him.”

That's another beautiful life extinguished by gun violence.

So, as life starts to return to some semblance of "normal" at Reynolds High School, with around 2000 students and their families traumatized, what are we to learn?

Since the Sandy Hook shooting, there have been 74 shootings at American schools and colleges, more than one shooting a week when classes are in session, including 39 at K-12 schools like this one.  The vast majority of these have been committed by students who accessed their parents' guns.  HERE and below is a map of those 74 shootings, and HERE is a listing of them.
Shootings at K-12 schools in red, at colleges/universities in purple. Everytown for Gun Safety/Mark Gongloff (source)

Clearly more needs to be done.  Better security at schools?  Sadly, lockdown drills at schools have become as common as fire drills, and armed security guards are becoming necessary.  But it certainly comes with risks, particularly in the hands of non-police.  I know of at least ten examples of where legally-armed security guards, police, and conceal carry holders have CAUSED incidents, including the injuring of children, on school grounds, despite the NRA line that schools should arm their teachers and staff.  None have ever stopped a shooting, but armed police (not citizens) have limited the shootings in a handful of cases (including this one and the Sandy Hook shooting).  Should students carry bulletproof blankets with them in the hallways, as one Oklahoma company attempts to convince us?  What about bulletproof backpacks and vests?  A round from an AR-15, like the one used in the Reynolds and Sandy Hook shootings, would go right through these.  Short of turning schools into prisons, there is no way to completely prevent a school shooting.

Making fortresses of our schools doesn't solve the problem, it merely treats the symptoms.  Instead, we need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them in the first place, including children.  One way to do this is to mandate a state-wide (or, better yet, nation-wide) Child Access Protection (CAP) law.  One such bill is being re-introduced in Oregon.  In the 23 states that have implemented CAP laws, accidental and suicide shootings among children, teens, and even adults have dramatically decreased, sometimes by as much as 50%!  See statistics on CAP laws HERE.

And let's not forget that this is just one of the many shootings that happen each week in Oregon, which are dutifully recorded at the Oregon Shootings Facebook page. 

Lawmakers weighed in.  Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber said in a statement, "Today Oregon hurts as we try to make sense of a senseless act of violence."  But other than offering his thoughts and prayers, there was no call for action.  President Obama was more straightforward, stating, "My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage,” and, in response to the insanely high number of shootings in America, "We should be ashamed of that. There’s no place else like this."

And what did the Oregon gun lobby group, Oregon Firearms Federation, have to say about the school shooting?  Nothing, of course.  The deaths of innocents are inconvenient for their "guns everywhere" agenda.  They decided instead to release a statement about fears of a ban on lead ammunition.  Real thoughtful.

I'll leave this post with the words of one of the Reynolds High School teachers, Seth Needler, who experienced the fear of huddling in a dark classroom with his students during the lockdown, hearing distant gunfire and wondering if the shooter would walk into his room.  Having survived the experience, does he feel like arming himself and his coworkers?  Far from it.  An excerpt from his Facebook post:

I don’t blame this on a mentally unhinged youth, although that might be what it was, or on lax security, or even on society’s general decline. This was a case, like all the other recent school shootings, of gun violence due to lax gun regulation, and the proliferation of military assault weapons in the hands of everyday citizens.
I’m sick and tired of hearing gun enthusiasts claim that any kind of gun regulation is an attack on the second amendment, or that the solution to gun violence is more guns. I completely fail to understand how one organization, which is the lobbying arm of one industry, can control every politician in Congress to the extent of preventing any action at all on gun control, even after polls show that 90% of Americans are in favor of it.
But every time another shooting happens, and undoubtedly this will be no exception, people (including me and my family and friends) sigh, groan, bemoan the incident, talk about how awful it is, criticize the NRA and its lopsided influence, and then do…nothing. The only constituency that responds with any energy to incidents of gun violence is gun enthusiasts, who declare that it just provides more proof of their hypothesis that schools need to be staffed with U.S. Marshalls and teachers need to be armed and carry loaded weapons. Rather than stricter gun regulation, we get weakening of the existing regulation, and states literally pushing each other out of the way to be the most liberal when it comes to who can carry weapons into how many different venues, including churches, schools and even bars. Everybody laughs about it on late night TV, and then goes back to their business.

He goes on to suggest a number of commonsense gun regulations and then finishes with a call to action:

I can’t sit around anymore and do nothing. I encourage anyone reading this to take action also. Politicians say all the time that they get far more calls from their pro-gun constituents than the other 90% of us. Nothing will change without a massive, concerted uprising from us, the people. .... 
Isn’t it time to put the NRA in its place? If not now, when?

UPDATE (6/15/14): The family of the shooter, Jared Padgett, released a statement apologizing for the actions of their son, saying that they are "horrified and distaught" and that they tried to instill good values in him.  They said nothing about how the way their guns were stored or took any responsibility for it.

ADDENDUM (6/16/14):  A related blog post from another blogger, HERE and HERE.

UPDATE (6/18/14):  Last night, a vigil was held for the victim, Emilio Hoffman. Hundreds showed up to participate, including the family of the shooter.

UPDATE (6/19/14):  According to newly-released police information, the shooter got the weapons and a duffel bag used to carry them from his brother's room, who lived with him.  The report doesn't describe any "security measures" that were overcome by the shooter to get the guns.  There were also other guns and weapons found in the suspect's home.  The article also has additional details about the moment-to-moment of the shooting:
When detectives spoke with Padgett’s brother, they learned that he owns the weapons detectives later found at the school. The weapons, police said, were stored in Padgett’s older brother’s room, and that the two shared a room, the affidavit states. 
On the day of the shooting, Padgett’s older brother went to the Wood Village Fred Meyer, which is where students were taken by bus after being evacuated, the affidavit states. “He was unable to locate his brother,” the affidavit states. 
Padgett’s older brother went home “and saw that his rifle was not in the bedroom where he left it,” and could not explain where it had gone, the affidavit states. Detectives showed Padgett’s older brother a photo of the green bag and confirmed that it was in fact his bag that was issued to him as part of the United States Army Reserve program, the affidavit states.