My colleague John wrote a very thorough piece this morning detailing the events that happened during the harrowing Panama City, Florida school board shooting that took place yesterday afternoon. In short, 56-year-old Clay Duke fired a semi-automatic handgun directly at Superintendent Bill Husfelt. Husfelt was miraculously unhurt, and Duke was subsequently shot twice by heroic security guard Mike Jones. After receiving those hits, Duke took his own life.
Undoubtedly, this bizarre event will incite the Panama City School District and other districts around the country to beef up their security systems, installing metal detectors and increasing armed guard and/or police presence in schools. But after this shootout in Florida and last month’s hostage situation at Marinette High School in Wisconsin (which also resulted in the perpetrator committing suicide), I’d like to suggest that school security is just a stop-gap measure, a band-aid trying to heal the much larger wound inflicted by lax gun laws in the United States.
The Florida shooter, Clay Duke, served time for a 1999 conviction for aggravated stalking and shooting into a vehicle, and as such should have been barred from owning a handgun. Duke admitted to having been diagnosed in prison with “adult-onset bipolar condition,” but was released for good behavior after serving only 85 percent of his sentence.
The New York Times reported in 2008 that a study prepared by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, “a bipartisan group headed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York and Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston… reveal(ed) a strong correlation between weak state gun laws and higher rates of in-state murders, police slayings and sales of guns used in crimes in other states.” In other words, unless we have stringent gun laws that are applicable nationwide, we will continue to see higher rates of murder and suicide at the hands of gunmen.
NRA members continue to live by Charlton Heston’s mantra, “From my cold, dead hands,” but Heston is dead now. And so are my Grandparents, who were killed by shotgun fire. Not by a handgun, mind you. By a shotgun. Meant to be used for hunting. Thankfully, no innocents were killed in Florida yesterday, but how many more deaths do we need to witness before we realize it’s time to seriously limit and regulate gun ownership?
The fact that former police officer Mike Jones was armed during yesterday’s school board meeting may have been what saved the day, but it has been speculated by both gun enthusiasts and Meredith Vierra alike that Clay Duke had no intentions of killing anyone, rather that he simply walked into the meeting hoping to be shot. Duke’s death wish is now a living nightmare for everyone who witnessed his demise. Let’s stop this insanity now.