The Odds of Another School Shooting

Every LEO reading this needs to accept the sad fact that they could be called to, or otherwise affected by, an active shooter

By David Magnusson  |   May 15, 2019
A vigil for the Parkland school shooting victims. Photo WikiMedia Commons/Fabrice Florin

Another school shooting!

These words used to numb me. Yes, they still do. But there’s a growing sense of frustration and anger that complements my outrage and sadness when I learn of such things. As a law enforcement professional, I think the last thing you ever want to lose is your ability to feel the compassion and humanity when you learn of something like this.

Yes, we suck it up and tend to the matters at hand, but it just is not normal to get callous to the fact that so many children go off to work each morning (except the summer) and many have not come home. Even more have been in situations that, while not seriously hurt physically, will scar them for life. In fact, there are so many instances in which the odds are far above infinitesimal that you or an officer you know from a nearby agency will come in contact with a school shooting situation.

What Are the Odds?

Many Americans play the Lotto. We all know, so doing, that we have no real chance of winning. However, we talk ourselves into buying a few tickets by saying, “Our chances are just as good as anyone else’s.” That may be true or close enough to true for government work. You can’t win if you don’t play. I get it. Nonetheless, the odds are far greater that we will be involved with or know someone in law enforcement who has been involved with “another school shooting.”

Have we accepted this probability? Sure. We train and plan. It’s like a boxer. You spar and you train and keep in shape, but it’s absolutely nothing compared to a real bout. You cannot tell your opponent to “hold up a bit” or “stick to the head, my ribs are really sore.” You can do that in sparring. But the real deal is something else all together.

How can I drive the point home a little clearer?

The Article

The Washington Post wrote an article months ago and updated it yesterday. The title is “More than 228,000 Students have Experienced Gun Violence since Columbine.” Think about that. That equates to 11,400 students are year or 31 students a day across this nation. Perhaps a classroom of kids each and everyday have experienced gun violence. It’s a big country. You have kids? Do your friends and colleagues have kids? There’s a good likelihood someone you know will be affected.

The article went on to say that the 228,000 children came from 234 schools. One hundred and forty-four children, educators, and others have been killed with 302 injured. 2018 proved to be the most active year for school shootings since 1999. The article stated that where a gun source could be determined, 85% of the shooters got them from their house, friends, or other relatives. The average age of the school shooter? 16.

Shootings at colleges and universities were not counted not were after-school activities. Quite frankly, this makes the overall 228,000 number that much more problematic.

How Should We Look at This?

Apart from the human angle, we must look at this with a sad realization that school shootings affect each and every law enforcement officer. I am not sure that any of us can look at a school— any school—and not feel a sense of concern. No one at Parkland had any inkling on February 13 what was to take place the next day (that included law enforcement). So based on the statistics that the Washington Post came up with, what is it that we do not know right now today?

We do know it is going to happen again somewhere in this country, soon. We just don’t know where. How can we fully relax when we have schools in our area? Truth is, we can’t.

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David Magnusson

Magnusson is the chief of police for the Village of El Portal Police department. Prior to this, he was police chief of the Havelock (N.C.) Police Department. He also spent 30 years with the Miami Police Department, retiring there as a major.Magnusson is a graduate of American Military University with a Master's in Military history. Chief Magnusson also boxed as an amateur for twenty-six years. You will find his passion for history and boxing in many of his writings. Magnusson and his wife Rosa reside in South Florida, where they have five children and two grandkids.

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