Police in Arlington, Tex., have repeatedly emphasized that this week’s shooting at Timberview High School was “not a random act of violence.” A student drew a gun following a fight and four people were injured, a police official said, emphasizing that “this is not somebody attacking our schools.” No doubt the comments were meant to be reassuring. But it is a sad commentary if we are meant to find it reassuring that a school shooting is just a routine extension of everyday life.
Thankfully, no one was killed on Wednesday, but the horror of what happened must not be minimized. According to authorities, an 18-year-old student who had been involved in a fight got a gun from his backpack and opened fire. Two people were shot, a teenage girl was grazed with a bullet and an adult was injured in a fall. One of the people shot is a 15-year-old boy, listed in critical condition, who likely will carry scars for the rest of his life. So, too, will students who huddled in fear and witnessed the violence. “Mom there’s a shooting. Mom help . . . Mom I’m scared,” texted one terrified student.
“Sadly, back to school has meant back to school shootings for too many communities across the country,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said during a media call on Thursday that highlighted the increased numbers of school shootings so far this year. Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 15, there have been at least 30 instances of gunfire on school grounds, killing five and wounding 23 people, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. That is the most instances and most people shot during the back-to-school period since Everytown for Gun Safety started tracking gunfire on school grounds in 2013. Analysis by The Post showed that, since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, more than 250,000 students at more than 270 schools have been exposed to gun violence in schools.
Most of the shootings don’t follow the contours that people generally associate with school shootings, the ones that get the most attention. Unlike Columbine or Sandy Hook or Parkland, they are not premeditated but rather — as seems to have occurred in Arlington — the result of disputes or tensions that escalate into tragedy when someone has handy access to a gun. That they are emblematic of the everyday gun violence that afflicts far too many communities in the United States makes all the more urgent the need for action.
Everytown for Gun Safety put together a list of recommendations for the Biden administration on school safety that goes beyond the active-shooter drills that research shows only make children more anxious. Top on the list is the secure storage of firearms so that children can’t get their hands on them. In incidents of gunfire on school grounds, as much as 80 percent of shooters under the age of 18 got the weapon from their home or those of friends or relatives. Schools should follow the lead of districts that have required parents to be educated about the importance of locking up firearms, and laws are needed mandating safe storage with stiff penalties for violators. This would help prevent school shootings, and reduce the number of accidental shootings and youth suicides, too.