Two weeks after the campus massacre in South Florida, there’s been an awakening of new attitudes about firearms across America, led in no small part by the shellshocked but determined students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who lost 17 friends and faculty.
A reality check is warranted. Our country has been down this road too many times before, from Columbine to Sandy Hook to Las Vegas, and we’ve walked away with no meaningful change in gun policy or culture to show for it.
And yet small triumphs are suddenly happening too often to dismiss.
Washington state lawmakers approved a ban on bump stocks that essentially turn semi-automatic into automatic weapons. (President Trump voiced interest in doing the same nationally.) They’re also reconsidering legislation, which appeared dead in Olympia two weeks ago, to sharpen background checks and limit assault-rifle sales.
A national firearms retailer leaped ahead of politicians Wednesday; Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it would end store sales of assault-style rifles and quit selling any guns to customers younger than 21.
And let’s not overlook something local but strikingly significant that occurred this week, playing out in the normally invisible world of Pierce County Juvenile Court.
On Monday, the importance of students and other bystanders speaking up when they’re aware of school security threats was revealed in a powerful three-part harmony.
Court Commissioner Mark Gelman heard the troubling cases of three Pierce County students — A 12 year-old from Truman Middle School, a 15-year-old from Lincoln High and a 17-year-old from Spanaway Lake High — and ruled each serious enough to merit holding the youths in detention at Tacoma’s Remann Hall.
Each case involved a boy allegedly threatening to shoot up his school; two of them issued menacing declarations via social media, while the third engaged in scary talk on a school bus.
What these episodes have in common are vigilant students, parents or grandparents who shook off any temptation to minimize the risk — say, due to the pre-teen age of one suspect — and instead wisely reported it to authorities.
The gunshot fired Monday in a restroom at Tacoma’s Oakland alternative high school should be a wake-up call to anyone still in denial that weapons are finding their way into our schools.
People who spot red flags in advance help give new meaning to the term “first responders.” Their eyes and ears are equally invaluable when young people threaten to harm themselves.
Officials should make it easier for the public to report homicidal or suicidal talk through the expansion of anonymous phone lines and digital technology.
“No concern is too small to report,” Tacoma police said in a statement Sunday. “The citizens who observed these threats over social media, and made the call to report them, are to be commended.”
Tacoma school officials chimed in on the district’s Facebook page: “... thank you to all the good people in our community who saw and reported the threats to TPD. #SeeSomethingSaySomething”
In their own modest way, these witnesses are rising to the challenge of our violent times as surely as the high school students of Parkland, Florida.