Opinion: The Post-Columbine awareness

Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer
In light of the recent attack on the Oxford High School community, it has come to my editor’s (Don Rush) attention that he, as old as he is, is woefully inadequate at understanding the experiences modern high schoolers go through. He understands that events like the Columbine shooting have changed the relationship between students and the weapons they use, but that the minute details are out of his — and likely many of our readers’ — grasp. While there are no high school students on the Sherman Publications staff, I am, as far as I know, the most recent staffer to graduate high school, and as such was asked to provide my perspective on the shooting.

Dean Vaglia

I must start this by saying I, of course, have not experienced a real-life school shooting as a student of any kind. The closest to anything nearing a shooting was when security guards found a crossbow in a student’s car, and I recall that being a case of an over-eager deer hunter. But my school was placed under a partial lockdown when this happened, a sign of how aware school administrators, faculty and students are of the threat shooters-in-waiting present.
Everybody knows a shooting will happen at their school. Given the absurd amount of inaction on every possible front following events like Sandy Hook and Parkland, everybody knows it’s a matter of time before one or two weirdos pick up their family rifles and open fire on their peers. The knowledge is constant, though mostly in the back of the mind rather than a paralyzing fear. But it is always considered.
You memorize the exits at every pep rally. You watch the weird kids’ lunch tables. You cross reference your class rosters with the ever-unspoken “shooter list.” You know they’re going to pull something out of that backpack, briefcase or jacket pocket. It is inevitable.
To pretend it isn’t inevitable is to bury your head in the sand. New schools have curved hallways to block a shooter’s line of sight. Backpacks now have enough space for ballistic plates. Every other month or so you shelter in place or run for the corner during a lockdown drill, and every so often a sheriff’s deputy or school resource officer will talk with classes about the anonymous tip-line Ok2Say.
School shootings can be prevented. It takes money and time and requires getting guns out of schools as much as possible, but wide-ranging inaction has made them inevitable. What was once seen as a unique tragedy is now commonplace, while the most detestable politicians and lobbyists act as though responsible ownership is somehow tyrannical. But they have succeeded so far, their success flourishing in Oxford.

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