Editorial: Shooting threat offers opportunity to explore real solutions
Last Thursday was terrifying.
With the news that two local juveniles had made a threat to carry out a mass shooting at Moffat County High School, we were snatched up from an ordinary weekday and thrust headlong into a waking nightmare. In that moment, our pervasive, yet perhaps understandable, naiveté, was dashed against the stony walls of reality, and, just like that, something that had seemed unimaginable only moments before was staring us dead in the eye.
In the seclusion of our remote stretch of the Yampa Valley, it is often easy to lull ourselves into thinking we are somehow immune to the mass violence that too-often bathes the streets of our nation in the blood of innocents.
But, not anymore.
Our happy illusion is dead and gone, and we now face a new surety: We are immune to nothing. Despite our isolation, there are still those among us who would plot, plan and potentially carry out acts of unthinkable violence and cruelty.
Yet, even as we acknowledge these troubling realities, we take heart in the response of our community to last week’s threat, and we find hope in the evidence suggested by that response: With adequate attention to warning signs, careful planning and immediate, appropriate response, it is possible to prevent at least some of these horrific, mindless attacks that have become almost routine in our modern world.
We don’t want to even imagine what might have happened were it not for the swift, decisive actions of a number of individuals and agencies last week, and we cannot offer them thanks enough.
We are thankful to the Moffat County School District, namely MCHS Principal Kyle York and Superintendent Dave Ulrich, who received word of the planned attack at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday evening, determined the threat was credible and activated the district’s safety plan.
We are thankful to the Craig Police Department, particularly Chief Jerry DeLong, Captain Bill Leonard and School Resource Office Ryan Fritz. By 7:45 a.m. Thursday, the two students in question had been accounted for, and CPD officers followed up by increasing its presence at all Moffat County campuses throughout the week.
We are especially thankful to the parents of one of the suspected students, who discovered a letter their child had written detailing plans for the attack and notified the school district. It is impossible to imagine how difficult this must have been for these parents, who undoubtedly love and wish to protect their child. Yet, they did the right thing, even though the right thing undoubtedly came at a steep price. If they hadn’t done what they did, we might be having a very different conversation today.
And finally, we thank the community: Within hours of the threat coming to light on Thursday, employees and volunteers with High Country Security had dispatched themselves to local campuses to set up perimeters around the schools, and Thunder Run Security responded to police requests for assistance by setting up a presence at GOAL High School.
It is true that some of these well-meaning citizens caused concern among local authorities with their unbidden response, but it is still fair to say that everyone involved acted appropriately and swiftly, and as a result, an unthinkable tragedy may have been averted.
Perhaps there’s something to be learned in that.
Every successful mass shooting is attended by weeks upon weeks of wall-to-wall news coverage, while foiled shooting plots barely make a ripple. But wouldn’t incidents such as ours — incidents that were prevented — be a better place to begin looking for the answers?
We’ve yet to see compelling of evidence that more restrictive gun laws would do anything to quell the rising tide of mass shootings, but right here in Moffat County, Colorado, we have now seen that mindful parents, an involved community, dedicated officers and an engaged and aware school staff can make all the difference in the world.
Our unshakable sense of community is our greatest strengths and our best hope, and it is imperative that we capitalize on that strength.
We can’t go on blaming each other, blaming the system and blaming the gun. Blame accomplishes nothing.
But — as we saw last week — cooperation and unity can accomplish plenty.
So much for the models that predicted a cool, wet summer for us here in western Colorado — at least I think it’s hot this July. Ranchers are probably relieved that it’s been a good haying season, and after the cool spring, it’s nice to have a “normal” summer, but it is indeed hot.