Since I don’t really have anything to add to what we’re seeing tonight about the school massacre in Texas, I thought I would share a few data points that seem significant to me.
The Columbine school massacre was 23 years ago (April 20th, 1999). In a real sense every subsequent school massacre has been a copycat of that event. Fourteen people died at Columbine, including the two shooters. So twelve victims. It’s not even that high a number compared to numerous other subsequent massacres.
We’re still in that period where the facts of today’s events are all tentative. Some things that seem to be true will turn out to be untrue or at least incomplete. We should keep that tentativeness in mind. However, initial reports from police authorities in Texas suggest that the shooter wore body armor and actually fought his way into the school.
Let’s be clear on just what this means. Cops didn’t arrive on the scene in response to the shooting. A spokesman from the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN that three police officers exchanged gunfire with the shooter as he was trying to storm the school. The first was a police officer from the school district police force. Then two more officers from the local police department also exchanged gunfire with the gunman. So the shooter successfully stormed the school even though three separate armed police officers tried to stop him.
Body armor was likely key to that success.
Here is one of the accounts.
This is similar to what happened in Buffalo. At that shooting massacre a retired cop working as private security guard at the supermarket exchanged gunfire with the assailant during his rampage. But the shooter was wearing body armor. With that protection he was able to return fire and kill the retired officer.
The “good guy with a gun” theory was always absurd. These events make that all the more clear. But this is a bit more than that. In both these incidents armed police officers or security guards exchanged gunfire with the perpetrator. But they were outgunned. The assailants had more powerful weapons and they had body armor that allowed them to absorb gun shots and return fire. These aren’t cases with a mythical armed good samaritan. The cops are there, armed and on the scene, and they’re losing in fire fights with the assailants.
It’s really the best case scenario that law enforcement is there on the scene, armed, before the gunman gets into the school. But that wasn’t enough. The guy fought his way into the school. He won.
When you combine high powered rifles and body armor, these guys are close to unstoppable, at least at first. That’s not their only advantage. These shooters have all accepted that they’re likely going to die within minutes. They also, by definition, have the element of surprise. Unless police have a decisive advantage in firepower and defensive equipment, the shooter is always going to have a big advantage in those engagements.