Last Friday, Jaelynn Willey, the 16-year-old Maryland girl who was shot at school by a former boyfriend, was taken off life support and passed away. While that was the greatest tragedy coming from the events of last Tuesday’s attack, the ensuing investigation into the killing raised many questions which are being mirrored in other discussions around the country. One of them has to do with how the shooter wound up dying and the effectiveness of having an armed school resource officer on campus.
Initial reports which came out right after the incident indicated that the shooter had been “stopped” by Deputy Blaine Gaskill, a veteran sheriff’s deputy with SWAT training who had been working as the school resource officer since last summer. Authorities initially stated that it was unclear whether Gaskill took down the attacker or the shooter did it himself, but both had fired a round from their weapons. It’s now been confirmed that Gaskill’s shot caught the shooter in the hand, but the fatal wound was a self-inflicted headshot. (Baltimore Sun)
Austin Wyatt Rollins, the 17-year-old who opened fire on classmates at Great Mills High School in Southern Maryland last week, injuring one and killing another, died from shooting himself in the head, officials investigating the case said Monday…
After firing the handgun, Rollins kept walking through the school, where he was confronted by school resource officer Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill just after 8 a.m. Their weapons went off simultaneously 31 seconds later, with Rollins shooting himself in the head and Gaskill shooting Rollins in the hand, officials said.
In one of the dumbest exchanges I’ve seen on social media surrounding that killing, someone was arguing that school resource officers aren’t an effective response to threats like this (hence why we need gun bans) and the failure of Gaskill to kill the attacker was proof of that. Now, I’ll grant you that some conservatives almost invited this crazy response by going out of their way to point out how quickly Gaskill was able to respond and prevent further deaths. But that doesn’t make the argument against resource officers any more valid.
This tragedy had a couple of factors involved which made it quite different from actual mass school shootings such as the recent one in Florida. Unlike crazed, mass shooters who come to a school packing large stockpiles of ammunition and begin murdering as many children as possible at random, this kid was there with the clear intent of murdering one girl with whom he’d been in conflict. The second student who was injured was actually struck by the same bullet that killed Jaelynn Willey. When he encountered Deputy Gaskill he may have been trying to leave the school, looking for some other enemy to attack or planning to take his own life inside the school anyway. We may never know.
In a true mass shooting event like the one in Florida, we know that when an armed protector arrives and confronts the shooter, they generally either try to flee, surrender or kill themselves, ending the mass shooting event. No matter how it plays out, that moment of intervention is what has the greatest chance of preventing any further loss of innocent life. It worked in Maryland where the shooter was apparently only seeking one target and it works where maniacs are looking to maximize the body count.
With that in mind, I would remind everyone trying to pick apart the Maryland shooting as proof of something in this debate that it doesn’t matter whether Deputy Gaskill’s shot ended the killer’s life or if it was a suicide. The point is, the attack ended at that moment and nobody else was injured or killed. Having a good guy with a gun on the scene who was able to intercede in under a couple of minutes was the solution. It’s not part of the problem. New programs which fund training and placement of school resource officers at critical locations are something we can do right now. Today. And it can produce results without having to go through some painful and probably futile attempt at passing new gun bans. The system in Maryland stands as proof of this. The process didn’t fail in that school. It worked as designed, no matter whose bullet ended the attacker’s life.
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