A hostage standoff at the Marinette High School in Wisconsin ended Monday night with the 15-year-old student gunman shooting himself, as police stormed the classroom. The gunman is currently in “grave” condition, according to the Associated Press.
He made no demands after taking a teacher and 25 other students hostage with two pistols, eventually releasing them before turning his guns on himself. The hostages said they were able to keep him calm by talking to him. Police credit the teacher, Valerie Burd, with a “heroic” performance under terrifying conditions. The student gunman discharged his weapons several times during the incident, taking out the classroom projector during a movie to announce himself. When his cell phone rang, he snapped it in half.
Student hostage Zach Campbell told CBS News, “I didn’t really know what to think. I was just hoping to get out alive. He didn’t want to shoot any of us.” We may never know what the gunman wanted to do, when he entered the classroom with loaded weapons. Fortunately the students and teacher were able to talk him into ending the encounter without shooting any hostages.
The safety of innocents cannot rely upon the good intentions of madmen. There have been far too many shooting incidents at schools over the years. Besides being an obvious focus for the boiling emotions of disturbed young people, they’re also one of the few places where a gunman can easily obtain a room full of hostages, with little fear of an armed response.
School shootings are a microcosm of the problem faced by all peaceful and orderly people, looking for a civilized answer to violence. The simple truth, from the classrooms of Wisconsin to the burning houses of Yeonpyeong Island in South Korea, is that the rules of a conflict are always written by the aggressor. Defenseless populations invite aggression. Few locations have more rules against violence than a school, but that didn’t stop an armed student from writing a different set of rules for himself on Monday. “Gun-free zones” are perfectly safe… until they suddenly cease to be gun-free. Talk of disarmament, on any scale, only reaches the ears of the people who least need to hear it. The good and gentle people of the world spend far too much time pleading for their lives.
It’s long past time that we took more substantial measures to ensure the safety of student populations. Security guards, armed teachers… whatever it takes. What happened in Wisconsin yesterday was the best-case scenario, aside from the disturbed student shooting himself. Nobody else got hurt, but that shouldn’t have been his decision to make.