Kenrick Calstillo
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Kenrick Calstillo

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Kendrick Castillo gave his life to save fellow students during the massacre at STEM School Highlands Ranch.

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Colorado finds itself the location of another school shooting, this time at the STEM School Highlands Ranch.

Sadly, and typically, the immediate response was political and crass. Students of the school walked out of a candlelight vigil to honor victims of the Tuesday shooting, which killed 18-year-old student Kendrick Castillo and wounded eight. Castillo died heroically, trying to stop a shooter.

Students left the vigil upset about presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, and U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colorado, who exploited the prayer and mourning event to promote a gun control agenda.

“It was really sad,” parent Lisa Lopez told Denver’s KDVR TV. “All those kids wanted was to be heard as part of the grieving process, and I think they had that right. I don’t think it should have been turned into something political about gun control.

“It should have been about something to remember their friend and classmate and schoolmate and let them get a chance to grieve.

“It just turned straight into gun control. We need to do this and we’re not doing this and I’m in Washington fighting for this and like, that’s not what this is about.”

GUEST COLUMN: Standing with our friends in Highlands Ranch

In addition to brazenly politicizing the vigil, Crow blasted anyone concerned enough to pray on the day of the killing. Copying other left-wing politicians from prior shootings, Crow tweeted his unoriginal opposition to the sentiment of “thoughts and prayers” for the injured and dead.

“…it is empty, it is weak, and it does an injustice to our children who are on the frontlines of this violence,” Crow wrote.

Other political hacks will likewise exploit this tragedy to promote self-serving agendas that promise almost no hope of stopping the next school shooting. In this case, police think two suspects — students at the school — committed this crime with guns one of them stole. No new gun law would prevent a crime of this nature.

Mass shootings inspire others to talk about the need for better mental health services, and they have a good point. Better mental health would surely mean fewer crimes.

Tweaks to policies affecting guns and mental health might have some small, long-term effects that reduce future massacres.

More pressing is the need for practices that prevent these crimes immediately, on the front lines.

Should the media avoid showing and naming mass shooters?

It is past time Congress (that’s you, Bennet and Crow), the president, state legislatures, charities and philanthropists, school boards and other local governments insist on hard security measures at K-12 schools.

No one other than law enforcement officers or trained security personnel should have been inside STEM School with guns. The suspects could not have walked with guns into most courthouses, professional sporting events, concert venues, emergency rooms, or any number of other public spaces.

Increasingly, we enter public buildings only after emptying our pockets of metal and passing through metal detectors. Security personnel search and/or X-ray our backpacks and bags. These measures limit potential killers to the likes of Harry Houdini.

No one wants hard security checkpoints at schools, where students and parents used to come and go at will. Checkpoints are impersonal and inconvenient. They crush our nostalgic views of primary education.

That is all pretty sad, but less so than dead kids in hallways and classrooms.

Secure entrance points work. If they did not, we would have routine crowd shootings at sporting events, concerts, amusement parks and government buildings. We do not. They are legitimate gun-free zones, kept gun free by measures to screen out weapons of all types.

Society should decide now to stop allowing killers to enter schools with guns, knives and bombs. Spare no expense. We could secure entrances to K-12 schools with a fraction of the largesse wasted on bridges to nowhere, Medicare for able-bodied adults and countless billion-dollar boondoggles of federal pork.

As members of a civilized society, we should keep schoolchildren in our thoughts and prayers. We should simultaneously secure our school buildings, and do so now, to provide immediate and tangible protection from the next crazed killer. If we do not invest in the safety of our kids, we stand for nothing that really matters.

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