On Feb. 14, the nation watched in horror after students were evacuated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, following an active shooter situation. The nation soon learned that a former student had entered the school and killed 17 students and teachers with a semi-automatic assault rifle. In the wake of the latest mass school shooting, Americans are grappling again with the reality of the country's gun problem, although some still don't recognize it as such. While a decent percentage of the population is calling for sweeping bans on assault weapons, raising the minimum age to purchase firearms, and other common-sense gun safety legislation, others are tackling the issue from another angle entirely. Like an elementary school that installed bulletproof shelters for classrooms. Is this really what this nation has come to?
Back in 2014, Healdton Public Schools in Oklahoma installed seven bulletproof storm shelters inside its elementary school, along with two larger shelters in the middle school, KOCO5 News reported. Now, school officials are reportedly working toward purchasing them for the high school, as well. "When tornadoes strike, and Lord help us, when you have an intruder on campus, to know that you have somewhere to go quickly for the safety of your students, it's very relaxing," Superintendent Terry Shaw told KOCO5 News. "As the kids flow in, the last teacher that comes in comes right in, shuts the door and you lock it down."
Although Healdton was the first public school district in the nation to have Shelter-in-Place safe rooms installs, it isn't the only district these days to have them. As Newsweek reported this week, Atoka Public Schools in Oklahoma installed six safety rooms in its elementary school in June 2017. “Like everyone else in America, we watched in horror the deadly shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. And then, only a few months later, the deadly EF-5 Tornado that hit the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore Oklahoma," Shelter-in-Place CEO Jim Haslem told the publication, adding:
Personally, I'm not seeing how installing bulletproof shelters in schools is fixing the whole "gun violence is a serious problem" issue in the United States. To me, that's right up there with sending kids to school with bulletproof backpacks — which apparently parents are buying in droves right now, as reported by HuffPost. And I'm not the only person who is utterly horrified by the reactive "solutions" to ongoing gun violence. "We have failed them," one Twitter user wrote. "They've asked for safe schools. We gave them bullet-proof backpacks and shelter-in-place drills."
Or arming teachers. On Wednesday — just one day after Florida voted in favor of arming teachers, mind you — a Georgia teacher barricaded himself in his classroom and fired a gun, reported the Los Angles Times. A Twitter user who identified as a student, according to the Los Angeles Times, tweeted at the National Rifle Association (NRA) shortly after the incident with an armed teacher at Dalton High School unfolded. "@nra my favorite teacher at Dalton high school just blockaded his door and proceeded to shoot. We had to run out The back of the school in the rain. Students were being trampled and screaming. I dare you to tell me arming teachers will make us safe."
As the Miami Herald reported, the Florida legislature voted on Tuesday to approve a bill that would allow an opt-in "school marshal" program — which would train and arm teachers in Florida schools. Granted, the bill also included a couple of actual gun-safety policies, such as raising the minimum age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21, and creating a three-day waiting period for gun purchases. But these common-sense measures don't make up for the fact lawmakers actually voted to bring in more guns to solve the gun problem, when that's just not how it's going to happen.
Look, parents could send their children to school in full-out bulletproof armor. But it still wouldn't address the root of the problem: Gun violence. The fact that it's so damn easy to waltz into a store and buy a semi-automatic assault rifle, as Business Insider detailed. Major gun retailers are finally starting to take a stand. Heck, even certain states are banning the sale of assault rifles. Slowly, the nation is coming around. But it shouldn't have taken the murder of 17 more innocent victims on school grounds to get the ball rolling, folks.