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Home | Tag Archives: santa fe school shooting

Tag Archives: santa fe school shooting

After high school shooting, Texas campuses could soon have more armed marshals

In the first legislative session after a deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School that left 10 dead and 13 others wounded, the Texas Senate on Monday advanced a bill that would abolish the limit on how many trained school employees — known as school marshals — can carry guns on campus.

Under the marshal program, school personnel whose identities are kept secret from all but a few local officials, are trained to act as armed peace officers in the absence of law enforcement. Currently, schools that participate in the program can only designate one marshal per 200 student or one marshal per building.

“School districts need to be able to tailor the school marshal program for their unique needs,” State Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Conroe Republican who authored Senate Bill 244, said about the legislation last week. “SB 244 removes those limitations in statute on the school marshal program to accommodate the unique needs of districts across the state.

“Each individual district would be able to make those choices on what’s best for them.”

But advocacy groups such as Moms Demand Action immediately decried the legislation.

“I’m very concerned for the safety of our schoolchildren as lawmakers continue to pass bills that would aggressively increase how many of our children’s teachers are armed,” Hilary Whitfield, a volunteer leader with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said in a statement. “We all want to keep our schools safer, but adding guns to the problem is not the solution.”

The bill passed 20 to 10, with only Democrats opposed. But State Sens. Royce West, D-Dallas, and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, both sided with the upper chambers’ Republicans and voted in favor of the measure. The bill can now be sent to the Texas House for debate.

Former state Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas-area Republican who authored the bill that created the Texas school marshal program, told The Texas Tribune that the cap on how many marshals can be on each campus was proposed by police groups that helped to create the legislation.

“The risk of having five officers in a single building and police coming to the scene is you begin to lose track of the good guys versus the bad guys,” he said. “The police were saying, ‘If we go to a scene and there are four non-uniformed individuals carrying guns and one bad guy, it’s very difficult for us to determine at the time in the heat of that moment the good guy from the bad guy.’”

“I’d be very careful,” about that proposal, Villalba said. “When you have multiple [marshals] in a single building, that could create some risks that are difficult.”

Villalba emphasized that he wasn’t against Creighton’s bill since he hadn’t read its full text, but said, “there’s a reason we had that number.”

Read related Tribune coverage

Author: ALEX SAMUELS – The Texas Tribune

The 86th Legislature runs from Jan. 8 to May 27. From the state budget to health care to education policy — and the politics behind it all — we focus on what Texans need to know about the biennial legislative session.


Prospects For “Red Flag” Gun Law in Texas Plummet as Abbott Sees “Coalescence” Against It

The chances of Texas passing a so-called “red flag” law after the Santa Fe school shooting continued to drop Friday as Gov. Greg Abbott said he saw a “coalescence” against the proposal.

As part of his school safety plan released after the May 18 massacre, the Republican governor asked the Legislature to consider such a law, which would allow courts to order the seizure or surrender of guns from people are deemed an imminent threat by a judge.

But even then, Abbott’s request for lawmakers to study the proposal drew the ire of some Second Amendment hardliners in the governor’s party, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick declared Tuesday that he has never supported a “red flag” law and suggested it would be dead on arrival in the Senate.

Abbott, appearing Friday at an unrelated news conference in Austin, was asked if he still wanted lawmakers to consider the idea in the wake of Patrick’s comment.

“If you go back and look at what I said in my plan, I suggested what the Legislature consider — whether or not the existing protective order laws in the state of Texas were adequate or whether or not they should be amended to add emergency risk protective orders,” Abbott said. “And it seems like there’s coalescence around the notion of not supporting what’s categorized as a ‘red flag’ law. What is important is … that we work together as a legislative body towards solution to make our schools safer and to make our communities safer.”

Abbott included red flag proposals in his school and gun safety plan after the issue was raised at a roundtable discussion in the week following the massacre in Santa Fe. In his plan, Abbott encouraged the Legislature to “consider the merits of adopting a red flag law” that would allow firearms to be removed from a potentially dangerous person after legal due process. In the plan, he claimed that protective orders restricting gun possession, like red flag laws, could have prevented the mass shootings in Sutherland Springs and Parkland, Florida.

On Friday, Abbott reiterated that his request for lawmakers to consider a “red flag” law was not meant to be a personal endorsement of the proposal. “That’s correct, and also as you know, I made that clear,” Abbott told reporters, alluding to June tweet where he told a critic he does not “advocate red flag laws” in his school safety plan, “only that is something the legislature can consider.”

The tweet came during a 12-hour Texas House hearing on potential red flag legislation, after the topic, and concerns of Abbott’s approval, gained sharp criticism from conservative groups and opposition toward any such law was written in the Texas GOP’s party platform.

In the plan, Abbott also asked the Legislature to evaluate whether existing protective orders that prohibit gun possession are sufficient. Currently, courts can notify Texans under certain protective orders, like those in domestic violence cases, that they cannot own guns or ammunition, but state law gives no guidance on how to enforce the prohibition.


Police Interventions Spike in Texas Schools After Shootings in Santa Fe and Parkland

Police officers have long had a presence in public schools. But since the deadly school shootings in Santa Fe and Parkland, Florida, more Texas school children have found themselves facing police for actions the authors of a new study view as kids just being kids.

The study, published Tuesday by advocacy group Texas Appleseed, reported a dramatic spike in the number of students referred to law enforcement for threatening to use violence against students and staff. Its authors argue that some of the threats are just childish behavior, such as pretending to shoot with finger guns, or are the result of a mental disability. The study’s authors say arrests and other police interventions can be damaging to young children’s mental health and show a return to zero-tolerance policies they say gloss over the nuances of school violence.

After the shooting in Parkland, the number of students referred to Texas law enforcement for “terroristic threats” — such as threatening a school with violence or acting violently against staff — increased by 156 percent, and the number of students referred for “exhibition of a firearm” — anything from possessing a gun to threatening to shoot someone — increased by 600 percent. The greatest increase occurred among students aged 10 to 13, who saw a 762 percent increase in referrals for exhibition of a firearm.

The study was released a day before the Texas Senate’s Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security is set to to discuss the role of mental health in preventing school shootings.

After the shootings, Texas lawmakers were tasked with looking into ways to prevent school gun violence, with Gov. Greg Abbott releasing a series of recommendations on the topic in May. Among his recommendations was a return to zero-tolerance policies that remove students from classrooms for any threatening behavior.

The authors of the Texas Appleseed study argue that in response to a push to identify risks early, educators have referred their students to law enforcement in instances that were not truly threatening.

Morgan Craven, one of the authors of the study, said the uptick in referrals is the result of faculty and staff not having the resources to discern between threatening situations that require police intervention and those that don’t, prompting them to call police in cases that may otherwise be handled by faculty themselves.

“It reflects a culture where people are nervous and don’t know what to do,” Craven said.

Both Abbott and the study recommend teachers undergo threat-assessment training to be able to differentiate the kinds of incidents, and the study further calls for the state to fund some of the training.

Craven is slated to discuss the findings of the study at Wednesday’s Senate committee hearing. Though committee members in past meetings have focused more on protective measures — including possibly arming teachers with rifles in some rural districts — they have emphasized the importance of preventive measures in dealing with school violence.

Matthew Novosad, a police officer in La Porte and former vice president of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, said he has noticed an increase in referrals to law enforcement since the shooting in Parkland. He said building relationships with students and other community members is critical in ensuring that students do not have traumatic experiences when police get involved.

Novosad said police can redirect students to the appropriate resources rather than simply locking them up and that it’s ultimately the local district attorney’s role to determine whether to pursue charges against a student on a case-by-case basis.

He said young children and students with mental disabilities may act in ways that technically classify as threats.

“Are they just young, immature kids who don’t really know what to do what they’re doing? Absolutely,” Novosad said. “We all played cops and robbers as a kids.”

But Craven said some district attorneys have been over-responding to otherwise innocuous cases. An 11-year-old autistic child in Brazoria County was arrested last fall after kicking and biting teachers during a meltdown in class — behavior state law classifies as a “terroristic threat.” Though school officials have sent letters requesting charges against the child be dropped, Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne’s office has since continued to pursued the case, causing considerable financial strain on the family, said Shiloh Carter, a lawyer with Disability Rights Texas advising the family on the case.

Carter said it’s the first time she’s seen a district attorney pursue a case after school district officials asked to drop the charges, and she attributes the decision to the same drive that led to the spike in referrals to law enforcement after the Parkland shooting. When contacted by The Texas Tribune, Yenne said she can’t discuss or confirm cases about an 11-year-old child.

The study argues that unnecessary police involvement at schools can be prevented by better engagement between staff and students and urges the state to fund training for teachers. It quotes guidelines written by the U.S. Department of Education and the Secret Service, saying “the central question in a threat assessment inquiry or investigation is whether a student poses a threat, not whether the student has made a threat.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the title of Matthew Novosad.

Texas Appleseed has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author: MATTHEW CHOI –  The Texas Tribune

Texas Schools that Want to Arm their Employees Have Two Choices

Following a deadly mass shooting at Santa Fe High School, Gov. Greg Abbott rolled out a 40-page plan to keep schools safe.

Proposals ranged from beefing up existing mental health screening programs to encouraging voluntary use of gun locks at home, but one component seemed to divide lawmakers, districts and Texas schools: arming school employees.

If Texas schools want to arm their staffs, they have two options. One is the Marshal Program, which Abbott proposed using state funds to help schools implement. It allows local school boards to authorize employees to carry a handgun on campus, but they must be specially trained and licensed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Under the program, armed school personnel can’t carry firearms around students.

The other option was already around when then-Gov. Rick Perry signed the Marshal Program into law in 2012. Created by Harrold Independent School District Superintendent David Thweatt in 2007, the Guardian Plan allows local school boards to determine training standards and authorize specific employees to carry on campus at all times.

Here are four things to know about the two existing plans that allow school districts to arm their employees:

The Marshal Program creates a new kind of peace officer

For districts that choose to adopt the Marshal Program, teachers and other school staff members who undergo the required training are taught to act as armed security officers — or peace officers — in the absence of law enforcement.

“The Marshal Program is about creating an entirely new class of peace officers — certified and [Texas Commission on Law Enforcement] trained — who can act in a moment of crisis to disable and neutralize an active shooter,” said state Rep. Jason Villalba, the Dallas Republican who authored the bill that created the Texas school marshal program Abbott wants to expand. “That’s why the program is so starkly different than what Mr. Thweatt calls the guardian plan.”

The Guardian Plan, on the other hand, lets school staff carry guns with or without marshal training. It doesn’t train school personnel as peace officers, but lets them carry their weapons as long as they undergo district-specific training and have a handgun license. And it doesn’t have a maximum requirement for how many teachers can be armed, unlike the Marshal Program which lets schools only designate one employee a marshal for every 400 students.

Despite the differences in approach for the two plans, they both aim to mitigate tragedies in the event an active shooter comes on campus grounds.

“That’s the reason we’re doing it, and I think we can do that because they’re not going to know from where our particular defense is going to come,” Thweatt said.

“When [an active shooter] comes to the school, they’re going to get swarmed from multiple directions,” he added. “Armed shooters go where they know there’s going to be little resistance, but if they don’t know where they’re going to get resistance, they’re not going to come to our schools.”

Rural districts are more likely to adopt one of the plans

More than 200 of Texas’ 1,000-plus school districts have adopted one of two programs. And a majority of those districts tend to be in rural communities, according to Dax Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Texas Association of School Boards.

“Generally speaking, districts with police departments … do not tend to allow staff to carry firearms,” Gonzalez said. “Those 217 are likely smaller, more rural districts that feel they cannot be serviced by local law enforcement quickly enough.”

Villalba told POLITICO in February that he believes anywhere between 20 to 50 districts have adopted the marshal program. At least 172 Texas districts have adopted the Guardian Plan.

Training and gun storage requirements vary

Arguably one of the biggest differences between the two programs is different requirements for teachers or other employees who want to carry a gun.

Marshals have to receive 80 training hours and keep their firearms under lock and key. The Guardian Plan, on the other hand, lets teachers keep their firearm with them at all times — as long as they have a concealed handgun license and go through 15 to 20 hours of training.

It’s worth noting that these requirements could change, however. Abbott previously proposed streamlining the training course under the Marshal Program — which he called “burdensome”— and eliminating the lockbox requirement.

Villalba was critical of Abbott’s tweaks to the Marshal Program, saying that parents might be upset if teachers didn’t have to lock up their weapons.

But several Texas Republicans, including Jerry Patterson, Texas’ former land commissioner who helped get the state’s concealed handgun law passed in 1995, say the lockbox requirement does more harm than good.

“The lockbox requirement is silly. The gun needs to be carried on the person and accessible immediately,” Patterson said. “Not where you have to run to the office, go through a combination and then get the gun. If you carry it all the time, you won’t lose the weapon.”

Individuals schools and districts that adopt the Guardian Plan are also allowed to choose their own training requirements. At Harrold ISD, for example, employees who choose to carry go through at least 15 hours of training that includes videos of hostage scenarios and shooting drills. Fayetteville ISD, which adopted the plan in February, doesn’t require a specific amount of firearms training (though most staff do around 20 hours per year). And at Keene ISD, which adopted the Guardian Plan in 2016, Superintendent Ricky Stephens previously told The Texas Tribune he requires staff to undergo 80 hours of initial training and 40 hours annually after that.

Only one plan receives money from the state

To adopt either plan, districts have to find a way to pay for training, purchase firearms and ammunition and, in some cases, a lock box.

But only the Marshal Program has received state funding to help pay for those expenses.

When the Marshal Program was first signed into law, the state had a grant program in place to help districts cover training costs. But that money ran out and funding has not been reauthorized. That’s why Abbott proposed that the state pay for school marshal training this summer to ease the burden on individual districts.

Funding for the Guardian Plan was notably missing from the governor’s proposal, however. Instead of getting approval from the Legislature, authorization for the plan is outlined under the Texas Government Code, which lets certain school district employees who have a handgun license to carry their weapon.

Since there’s no legislative recognition of the Guardian Plan, Thweatt said, districts that adopt the plan have to pay for it themselves. Thweatt said Harrold ISD reimburses employees who participate for the cost of guns, ammunition and training.

“I’ve never received any funding [from the state] for the Guardian Plan,” Thweatt said.

Note: This story was inspired by a discussion on education policy happening now in our Facebook group, This is Your Texas. Sign up here to join the conversation.

Disclosure: The Texas Association of School Boards has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author: ALEX SAMUELS – The Texas Tribune

Texas Lt. Gov. Patrick Says He Will Donate Metal Detectors to Santa Fe ISD After School Shooting

More than a month after a deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School left 10 dead and 13 injured, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is taking steps to tighten security in the southeast Texas school district, part of an effort by the state’s Republican leadership to “harden” schools as targets.

Patrick announced Monday that he’ll donate “up to 10” metal detectors to the Santa Fe Independent School District, a Galveston County district of about 4,700 students. A private metal detector company, Garrett Metal Detectors, has also agreed to donate metal detectors to the district, as well as perform a security analysis and train staff at no cost, Patrick said.

Those new security protocols will be in place before the start of the school year, pending district approval, Patrick said.

“Santa Fe parents have asked for immediate action to secure the entrances to their schools and I want to make sure that if the Santa Fe ISD School Board wants to install metal detectors they can do so,” Patrick said in a statement.

Patrick’s announcement fits with a broader strategy from Texas Republicans, who in the wake of the fatal May 18 shooting and a fall 2017 shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs have focused on making schools and other public venues less vulnerable as targets.

In May, Gov. Greg Abbott laid out a 40-page plan for protecting schools; his pitches ranged from increased mental health screenings to new emergency safety measures to a few, narrow gun-related proposals, including consideration of a “red flag” law in Texas that would allow local officials to seize weapons from individuals declared dangerous by a judge.

Patrickwho presides over the Texas Senate, also pledged Monday that in the next legislative session, the upper chamber would create a matching fund program to support installing metal detectors in other school districts. That program will include reimbursements for school districts that purchase such protections before the next session begins.

In the immediate wake of the shooting, Patrick drew rebukes and mockery for saying “there are too many entrances and too many exits” to Texas schools. Experts said that schools have long been designed with such safety concerns in mind.

“On the day of the shooting in Santa Fe, I made securing the entrances and exits to our schools a top priority,” Patrick said Monday. “Santa Fe parents have asked for immediate action to secure the entrances to their schools and I want to make sure that if the Santa Fe ISD School Board wants to install metal detectors they can do so.”

Patrick also said Monday he supports increasing funding for an existing state program that arms school personnel. He has also charged a select committee within the Texas Senate to study school safety.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author: EMMA PLATOFF – The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott has 40-point Plan for Improving School Safety. Here’s What it Would Do

Gov. Greg Abbott’s suggestions for limiting mass shooting deaths in Texas include a bevy of changes to state law, a culture shift in how law enforcement officers patrol their communities, increases in mental health practices at schools and help for educators who want to improve their abilities to remove potentially dangerous students from classrooms.

Here’s what you need to know about the 40-page “School and Firearm Safety Action Plan” that Abbott released in Dallas on Wednesday.

Limiting who can buy and keep guns is part of the plan, though in narrow ways

While Abbott’s plan doesn’t call for any new state statutes that directly limit who can buy guns, it does aim to close some loopholes in laws that already bar some people from purchasing or owning firearms. And it does call for lawmakers to strengthen existing criminal penalties for some people whose guns are used to injure or kill people.

“I can assure you I will never allow Second Amendment rights to be infringed, but I will always promote responsible gun ownership,” Abbott said Wednesday.

The governor wants courts to report felony convictions, mental health adjudications and protective orders that can block people from buying guns within 48 hours instead of 30 days.

In Texas, parents can be criminally prosecuted if they don’t safely store loaded guns that end up being used in certain crimes by children who are 16 years old and younger. Abbott wants to include 17-year-olds in that law, remove the provision that only allows for prosecution if the guns were loaded when children accessed them and increase the criminal penalty from a Class A misdemeanor to a third degree felony. The plan also calls for requiring gun owners to report when their firearms are lost or stolen.

Other possible gun laws are identified, but not explicitly recommended

The plan mentions a potential “red flag” law that would allow judges to temporarily take guns away from people deemed to be dangerous if there is legal due process. Abbott didn’t call for legislators to pass such a law — he instead wants to “encourage” lawmakers to “consider the merits” of adopting it. Outgoing House Speaker Joe Straus took him up on that late Wednesday and instructed a committee of the lower chamber to study such legal provisions.

“In the coming days, I will issue other interim charges designed to help prevent another school shooting,” Straus said in a prepared statement.

Abbott’s proposal also calls for encouraging voluntary use of gun locks. It mentions that Ohio requires dealers to also sell access prevention devices and that Maine requires dealers to demonstrate how to use trigger lock devices. The plan says “Texas could emulate these laws,” but does not list them as an explicit recommendation for lawmakers.

Campuses could see more cops and armed marshals

The safety action plan says that schools and local law enforcement agencies should work closer together to increase how often officers are at schools. That includes making campuses regular stops on officers’ patrols and giving them rooms inside schools to stop and file reports while on duty.

Abbott also wants to increase the number of school marshals legally allowed at each campus, streamline the 80-hour training course required to become a marshal and repeal the legal requirement that marshals safely store their firearms. And he’d like to see schools prioritize the hiring of retired police officers and military veterans as resource officers.

Gov. Greg Abbott says he may call lawmakers back to Austin for a special legislative session on school and gun safety -- but only if legislators reach consensus on what bills to pass first.
Gov. Greg Abbott says he may call lawmakers back to Austin for a special legislative session on school and gun safety — but only if legislators reach consensus on what bills to pass first.  John Jordan

There’s a high bar for a special session

A litany of the recommendations would require legislative action. But that may not begin until the next regular legislative session begins in January.

Abbott hasn’t ruled out calling a special session before then. But he attached a key caveat that didn’t apply to last year’s special session: Lawmakers must reach consensus on what bills they plan to pass before he’ll convene them in Austin.

“A special session is not a debating society,” he said Wednesday.

But some recommendations are already moving forward

Several school officials could spend the summer being trained in ways that Abbott hopes will prevent more deaths. The state is paying to train campus staffers who want to become school marshals. Educators and other school officials can also participate in free training for responding to active shooters, a workshop for emergency planning and courses on how to teach emergency incident response to others.

Two state agencies are also increasing the amount of mental health first aid training they provide this summer. And the Texas School Safety Center is partnering with SIGMA Threat Management Associates to train staffers on behavioral threat assessment, a technique used to identify potentially dangerous students and determine the best ways to intervene before they become violent.

The threshold for kicking kids out of class or school could get lower

A student at Bammel Middle School receives the talking piece and listens to her teacher give the prompt in the restorative circle on April 20, 2018.
A student at Bammel Middle School receives the talking piece and listens to her teacher give the prompt in the restorative circle on April 20, 2018.  Pu Ying Huang for The Texas Tribune
Abbott wants teachers to have the power to immediately place students in alternative classrooms if they threaten violence. He also wants lawmakers to expand the criminal offenses that allow school officials to expel or put a student in disciplinary classrooms. Current felonies that can prompt removal from regular classrooms include murder, kidnapping, sexual offenses, assaults and aggravated robbery. Abbott wants that list to include stalking, cruelty to animals, any weapons-related felony and any organized crime offense.

But when students are placed in alternative classrooms, Abbott’s plan recommends that officials use what’s called restorative practices to identify underlying mental health issues that influence behavior.

Some Texas schools are already using similar practices, which encourage students and teachers to talk through problems and build stronger bonds to prevent conflict and violence.

Increased mental and behavioral health programs are also a major pillar

A key tenet of the proposal relies on expanding use of behavioral health programs and increasing the number of mental health professionals at schools.

Abbott wants his office and lawmakers to identify $20 million in state funds to begin expanding a mental health screening program operated through the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. One major change proposed would create two classes of school counselors — one that focuses on academic issues like college acceptance and one that concentrates on students’ mental health.

“This plan puts the state on a pathway to ensure healthier families, safer schools and safer communities,” Abbott said Wednesday.

Students’ behavior — and social media posts — could get closer scrutiny

The Texas Department of Public Safety next month will launch an app called “iWatch Texas,” which allows Texans to report suspicious behavior or criminal activity statewide. The safety plan recommends increasing awareness of the app among teachers and students.

“Using a single, statewide reporting system, as opposed to a school-specific system, ensures that tips from different parts of the community are all integrated linking critical data,” the plan says.

Reported information is then supposed to be disseminated to relevant law enforcement agencies.

“For example, a student may report strange behavior and statements made by another student,” the report says. “Later that day, a citizen reports that the same student was attempting to purchase ammunition at a sporting goods store and became belligerent when refused. The iWatch system would link these separate incidents, and all future reports involving this student on or off campus would be monitored by law enforcement.”

Abbott’s plan also suggests linking that data to a proposed increase in existing social media monitoring programs.

“Several recent perpetrators of mass shootings had left clues as to their potential homicidal or suicidal intent on publicly accessible social media sites in the months before committing their crimes,” the plan says.

Some funding is already available, but it’s not clear yet how much more is needed

The safety action plan doesn’t detail how much it would cost to implement all of the suggestions. Some may not come to fruition. The price tag for others may depend on how many school districts buy in to voluntary proposals.

The plan says the state already has access to $70 million for some of the recommendations and that the Texas Education Agency is working with school districts on how to prioritize $62.1 million in federal funds for several of the suggestions. State agencies are also seeking federal funding for mental health first aid training.

The plan notes that “additional funds” could be “offered by the Legislature.” But when the legislature convenes for the 2019 regular session, lawmakers will be about $7.9 billion short of what they need to fund current programs, services and policies, according to a recent report. And in Texas, lawmakers are already largely criticized for decreasing the amount of state spending per student in recent years.

Disclosure: Texas Tech University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author –  BRANDON FORMBY – The Texas Tribune

Op-Ed: To Your Scattered Bodies Go

Another week, another bunch of dead school kids, mowed down in another act of gun violence. Yawn. This week Santa Fe, Texas. Last week Indiana. Next week, who knows where. Have you been keeping count? Probably not.

These shootings have become as commonplace as afternoon pileups on I10 at rush hour and your response is probably is just the same: drive by slowly, stare for a second, shake your head at the carnage, then zoom off to your destination as if nothing happened. “Glad that wasn’t me or someone I know.”

Never mind that more students died this year because of gun violence than all the military-related deaths combined. Think about that for a second: Being a student in our schools is more deadly than being a soldier.

Welcome to the NRA’s America. For foreign exchange student Sabika Sheikh, Santa Fe Texas was deadlier than her home of Karachi, Pakistan. Welcome to the United States of Gunmerica.

When our monthly student sacrifices to the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers occur, it is not unusual for “concerned” politicians to jump in front of the nearest camera and offer their “thoughts and prayers” even before the corpses have been piled into the awaiting ambulances and returned to their grieving families.

Texas Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick, an NRA cocotte and proud funding recipient, after offering meaningless thoughts and prayers, immediately blamed the number of doors in the school as a root cause of the gun massacre. He added “too many doors” to his ever growing list of things that are responsible for mass shootings, including abortion, no prayers in schools, violent video games, bad parenting, and poor mental health.

Like all good NRA toadies, he skillfully avoided mentioning guns as having anything to do with gun violence.

t is a tactic used by all politicians that do the bidding of the death manufacturers: Blame anything BUT the actual cause of death. Like a delusional fan of the losing football team, the blame is directed towards anything but the actual reason: The refs were against us, the weather was bad, the other team cheated, the ball was deflated.

Similar scams have come from the tobacco companies blaming everything from alcohol to mouthwash to salted fish for lung cancers and the fossil fuel industry blaming the sun and algae for global warming, the NRA propped puppets continue to insist that guns have nothing to do with all those children having their heads exploded and internal organs turned into hamburger.

Oh, and by the way, by God if you disagree, you hate the Constitution, the Second Amendment, the baby Jesus, America and apple pie. Get out of here you stinking libtard. My pursuit to fondle cold steel happiness trumps your right to life and liberty.

Besides, happiness is a warm gun. Even John Lennon said so. (Slate has a nice article that documents 100 years of the NRA blaming everything but guns for gun violence.)

Didn’t anyone find it a bit convenient that our Governor, another NRA funding stooge who loves to be suggestively photographed holding guns, immediately called for a round table discussion to discuss ways to “fix the problem” as if he was just waiting for the next massacre to occur?

To me, it was a bit too staged and ready to go. Why no roundtables after Ft. Hood? After Sutherland Springs? That “roundtable” was plotted long before Santa Fe. It could have been after an El Paso school, or a Houston school, or an Odessa school. Who cares as long as we look like we are concerned before the fall elections? We are Texans. We care. Trust us.

“Everyone wants to talk about what the problem is. By now, we know what the problem is. The problem is that innocent people are being shot and that must be stopped.” said Abbot. But he does not know what “the problem” is if he believes, like his Lt. Governor, that somehow, adding more guns to a gun problem will fix the gun problem.

He routinely told the Obama administration that Texans would never agree to common sense gun control measures, and even dared the Federal government to come and take his guns. ( What a brave guy.

Sadly however, that kind of macho ammosexual bravado plays well to his poorly educated, mostly white, mostly male, evangelical Christian Trump loving base who have been brainwashed into thinking that anyone with a (D) after their name is somehow wanting to come steal their guns. Don’t look for the Guv to stop talking like that anytime soon.

So the roundtable focused on “common sense” solutions to the school shooting problem. Those “common sense” solutions included NRA backed ideas like “hardening the target” of the schools, adding more police to schools, and arming teachers. In other words, the solution is to turn public school campuses into prisons and add more guns to the situation.

Never once was the idea that maybe just maybe, the problem might be the easy availability of the over 300,000,000 (yes that is the correct number) guns floating around the homes and streets of these good old United States. Of that number, 51 million, or close to 20%, belong to Texans. Never once did anyone say “Hey, kids can get a hold of assault weapons, rifles, handguns with ease.”

Kids can shoot a whole bunch of other kids with impunity. It happens in “hardened schools” it happens in schools with armed security guards, it happens with legally and illegally purchased guns. Nope, you wont hear a Texas Republican blaming guns for anything other than another outstanding hunting season.

Let’s be clear: The only common denominator in every school shooting is guns.



Each shooter was able to easily acquire guns, either by stealing them, taking them from their parent’s locked gun cabinets, buying them, borrowing them or just because they had them ever since they were kids. Some were even presents from their 2nd Amendment loving, highly trained militia member parents.

Whose child has to die, how many students to be maimed, how many families destroyed until we come to our collective senses? What is your acceptable sacrificial number that you are willing to give to the gun rights groups and their political pishers before you move your mind? Does it have to be your own child or grandchild dying? Or is even your own flesh and blood not enough?

When will YOU say enough is enough? Or will you continue to just drive by slowly and look at the carnage without doing anything about it except sending your thoughts and prayers?

Not until everyone with a shred of common sense sees that guns are the problem, until the NRA purchased politicians are either voted out or have a come to Jesus moment and see that is not video games, not doors, not abortions, not mental health, then we simply will never fix the problem and we will watch helplessly as another shooting takes place next month.

Sabika Sheikh said in a speech at a meeting of foreign exchange students, that she “prayed every night to wake up to a world of peace.” Prayed every night.

Like the prayers that come from the parents of the dead babies at Newtown, and the dead teenagers at Parkland and Columbine, and now the dead and maimed in Santa Fe Texas.

All those prayers going unanswered.

All those scattered bodies.

The prayers aren’t working. It is time to change the strategy.


Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

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