The following article is an editorial and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Informed Media Group.
In the span of one horrific morning in September 2001, thousands of Americans were slaughtered in an unthinkable act of terrorism. Following that tragedy, the nation was united, at least temporarily, in their demand for action. Beyond calls for retaliation, millions of Americans just wanted to be safe. A little more than a month after the 9/11 attacks, we got the Transportation Security Administration. That federal agency, like most, has since attracted its share of critics who say it is bloated, inefficient and even systematically abusive.
Conceding each of those points, however, would not diminish the perceived need for immediate action in the wake of 9/11. Well-meaning people can certainly argue whether the TSA was, in practice, the best answer to the problem. But when passenger jets were hijacked and used as weapons by a gang of terrorists wielding box cutters, we all knew something had to be done.
Fast forward nearly two decades and our nation can scarcely go a solid month without at least one day’s news coverage dedicated in large part to another deadly school shooting. Let’s not squabble over the technical definition of “school shooting” and whether Friday’s massacre in Santa Fe, Texas, was actually the 22nd of the year. For the students, staff, parents, police and community grappling with the aftermath, those statistics hardly matter.
Regardless of how many there are, each time another shooter destroys countless lives in a few minutes of terror we all wring our hands and engage in a never-ending circular debate. Should we focus on gun control? How about mental illness? There is no good reason the conversation must be limited to these talking points. While the rest of our society remains hopelessly deadlocked in partisan bickering, students on both sides of this issue are simply asking to feel safe in their schools — just like we all wanted to feel safe when we traveled after 9/11.
In one case, an entity was created the following month with the sole purpose of protecting travelers. In the other, we seem content to kick the can down the road while the number of families directly impacted by school shootings continues to rise. America owes its children more.
Is another federal agency the right approach? Say what you will about the TSA, but there’s a pretty good reason you don’t read about mass shootings behind the gates of airport security. Few if any of us want the next generation to be educated in a facility resembling an airport screening area, though, and for good reason.
The TSA was a response to a specific threat. Likewise, we now need a solution appropriate for the circumstances. There will be unique challenges, to be sure. For starters, there are far more schools to protect across the nation than airports. But we did not let logistics stand in the way of action back then — and there are far more people streaming through a major airport on any given day than even the busiest high school corridors.
We also know much more about this threat than we did in the hazy aftermath of the 2001 attacks. Far too many school shootings have given us insight into warning signs and risk factors. It would be a fool’s errand to search for every variable before acting on the valuable information we already have.
The #NeverAgain movement emerged after February’s deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Despite that rallying cry and the activism of countless students, families across a small Texas town this week will now be confronted with making funeral arrangements instead of preparing for summer vacation.