By Staff Editorial
It’s a sad day when the nation mourns its first school shooting of the year.
It’s even sadder when it happens in your own city.
Much discussion has arisen about the Jan. 5 shooting at Millard South High School by parents, pundits and the press. As students, we feel obligated to lift our own voices and say what we think.
We believe the Millard South shooting was the result of a series of failures. We don’t enjoy pointing fingers in the wake of tragedy, but if there’s any good to come out of such a horrible event, it will be in effort to find preventative solutions.
The first failure falls on the shoulders of the Omaha Police Department. This situation has been unlike other school shootings because of the gun accessibility issue. If Robert Butler wasn’t a police officer, and if Robert Butler Jr. didn’t steal his father’s handgun to commit the crime, the issue of accessibility would stir up yet another quagmire of gun control debate. The issue here isn’t the ease of purchasing a gun, but the responsibility to keep firearms in a safe place.
That responsibility belongs to OPD. A handgun safe costs approximately $250, a small price considering how many lives it could save. Prior to the shooting, the OPD didn’t reimburse officers for gun safes. This is such a trivial expense that it’s ridiculous not to cover it. This policy failure may not have caused the tragedy, but there’s no doubt it enabled it. Let’s take it a step further and make gun safes mandatory for all officers, whether they intend to store their firearm at home or not. A small change in policy can make a big impact later.
The second failure belongs to Millard South High School. We agree the school has suffered an incredible loss and the traumatic event has planted fear inside every classroom. But stricter security measures need to be enforced. The fact that Butler Jr. was able to bypass the security officer and go straight into the administrative offices unchallenged should be a big wake-up call. It shouldn’t be out of the ordinary for a student to walk into his or her school office, but it should raise a red flag if that student was recently suspended. Despite the explanation the school gave about the guards’ shift change, communication was lacking. That lack of communication exposed an enormous hole in the school’s security.
This tragedy could not have been predicted. Two lives were lost, one seriously injured and an entire nation left to mourn yet another attack within our educational system. This brings us to the third failure, one that rests on our society as a whole.
We don’t know what Butler’s psychological history was, nor do we know the state of mind he was in that day. What we do know is that these acts of violence have happened far too often and involve a very specific age group: adolescents.
How many times have we written off a teenager’s disgruntled or dark mood as typical of those “awkward years?” Developmentally, adolescents are going through a lot of changes that often cause them to act differently than adults do. They’re also expected to handle difficult situations less like children and more like adults.
We all have teenagers in our lives. We’ve all seen them act unusually, and many of us brush it off, waiting until they hit 20 and hoping their attitudes will magically change. Sometimes, or so we hope, they mature and their hormones calm down to reveal a centered, well-balanced young adult. Other times, what’s beginning to peak in adolescence is the beginning of a much bigger, much more complicated issue that can’t be resolved simply by letting nature take its course. Is it wise to dismiss these issues as part of the adolescent condition?
More importantly, is it safe to?