Parkland Copycats Bide Their Time

(Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP)

Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Lisa Jansen sets up a picture at the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles on February 21, 2018, showing AR-15-type weapons and ammunition found at a student's home after he threatened a school shooting at El Camino High School in Whittier.

In the wake of the Parkland massacre, amid the din of CNN town halls and CPAC chest-thumping, the copycats slink out. Every school shooting leads to an uptick in threats to schools. Police must investigate people who post photos of AR-15s with callous captions on social media, along with students who think threatening a massacre is funny.

But there’s been little attention paid to the sum total of post-Parkdale disasters-in-the-making that have been prevented. Law enforcement officials responding to tips in multiple states have discovered caches of weapons in the homes of young men who have made threats against schools, some of them featuring the same AR-15 semi-automatics used in Parkland.

Some of the incidents since the February 14 shootings:

  • A Whittier, California, school resource deputy heard a 17-year-old student say that “the school will be shot up in three weeks.” When sheriffs raided the teen’s home, they found 90 high-capacity magazines, two handguns, and two semiautomatic AR-15s.
  • An 18-year-old Clarksburg, Maryland, high school student brought a knife and a loaded 9mm handgun to school. When police raided his home, they found an AR-15, several other weapons, along with a list he’d made of his issues with school.
  • During an investigation into a 17-year-old student’s threats to shoot up a Manistee County, Michigan, high school, sheriffs found an AR-15 in the young man’s home.
  • After an 18-year-old former student made threats against a Fair Haven, Vermont, high school, police discovered that he had purchased a shotgun and ammunition, and had been recently released from a Maine mental health facility.
  • Riverdale County, Nevada, sheriffs arrested a 27-year-old man who had threatened to kill students at Norco College. They located one loaded AR-15; two handguns, also loaded; and 510 rounds of ammunition.

When a high school student with grievances can put an AR-15 on layaway—as one Arkansas high school student did two years ago—Congress has failed in its most basic responsibilities to the American people. By clinging to interpretations of the Second Amendment that have been discredited by every mass shooting, the senators and representatives overlook a key feature of the First Amendment: “the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” whether it’s to protest inaction by elected state representatives or to survive another school day.



In the face of this latest national gun tragedy, Republican Second Amendment zealots continue to offer pointless remedies. President Trump calls for arming some teachers (a school officer armed with only a handgun did not enter the building during the Parkland shooting) and suddenly embraces the wisdom of a handful Obama-era measures—especially if he can claim credit for them.



Meanwhile, the NRA proposes to turn school zones into quasi-fortified, mini Green Zones, reminiscent of the heavily armed Baghdad enclave that housed coalition forces and officials after the invasion of Iraq. 

If guns are a public health problem, as many medical professionals argue, nothing short of an assault weapons ban will solve the school shootings crisis. Taking weapons of war out of the hands of civilians, especially those who may suffer from mental illnesses, is the only remedy to an untenable situation that brings out shooters and the people who would copy them.

There are effective ways to stem gun violence. If state and federal lawmakers continue to have trouble understanding the rudiments of their job, tens of thousands students will be marching on Washington in the coming weeks and some of them can probably make themselves available to tutor their elders.

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