One student is dead and either others were reportedly injured in a school shooting incident in Highlands Ranch, Colo., and while some people are already clamoring for more gun control, some activists on social media are calling this another failure of the “gun-free” zone concept.
According to the Denver Post, the school has private security, but there is no “school resources officer” as other schools frequently have. The STEM School has 1,850 students ranging from kindergarten through 12th grade, the newspaper added.
STEM is a public charter school, according to USA Today. It will remain closed the rest of the week.
Published reports say two suspects are in custody, one an 18-year-old male identified as Devon Erickson, and the other a juvenile female who was originally identified as a younger male.
However, one published report from KMGH News said the second suspect is a “transgender male who was in the midst of transitioning from female to male.” That report is flying around social media, along with speculation that bullying might have played a role in motivating the shooting, but that remains under investigation.
STEM (for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) schools are found in several locales.
But it’s a “gun-free” zone, and once again, that designation failed to stop a tragedy. Writing at the Washington Examiner in December, Tim Schmidt, founder and president of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), asserted that gun-free zones are essentially a deadly mirage. They haven’t prevented mass shootings, and in his view, it’s because “murderous maniacs know that malls and schools are soft targets.”
“Those inside,” Schmidt wrote, “don’t have the ability to protect themselves. In an emergency situation, seconds matter and a well-trained, responsible gun owner can save lives in an active-shooter situation.”
Some schools allow armed teachers, with proper vetting and training. All such teachers, or school administrators, participate in such programs voluntarily. Nobody is required to have a firearm, and there is stiff opposition to the idea from many teacher organizations.
KMGH reported that three handguns and one rifle had been recovered, but the rifle apparently was not used.
Various gun rights organizations have long criticized the “gun-free” zone concept as deceptive because, they contend, such a designation gives people a false sense of security. But federal laws have been passed that prohibit firearms on school campuses, although there is no evidence that the designation has ever prevented a school shooting. Columbine, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Sandy Hook, Thurston and other schools have all suffered shootings and all were supposed to be “gun-free” school zones.
While the investigation continues, the student who died has been identified as 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, who was three days away from graduating. According to the New York Daily News, he reportedly lunged at one of the shooters and was fatally wounded. Witnesses say his heroism gave them time to take cover.
The STEM school is not far from Columbine High School in Littleton, scene of a mass shooting more than 20 years ago.