The latest school shooting to take place in the country, perpetrated at Arapahoe High in Colorado by Karl Pierson, lacked many of the elements we’ve come to expect from the inevitable media circus which follows such events. The shooter was a student, for one thing, more reminiscent of the Columbine event than the more recent Newtown or Washington shipyard attacks. Also, the extent of the carnage, while still horrible, was fortunately considerably more limited. Authorities are saying that he came equipped for and with the intention of causing widespread harm. He brought a pump action shotgun (model not released yet that I’ve seen) with plenty of extra shells, several Molotov cocktails and a machete. Yet in the end, he injured two students – one gravely – and lit one fire in the library before taking his own life.
Given Pierson’s current, room temperature status, we may never fully discern his intentions and motivations, but early investigations may provide some clues.
But students who witnessed the attack later clarified that it was the school librarian and debate team coach, identified as Tracy Murphy by NBC affiliate KUSA in Denver, who was the target of Pierson’s rage.
Steve Miles is an English teacher who taught Pierson as a freshman, told the Associated Press that Pierson had recently been cut from the debate team, but he didn’t know why…
“‘Revenge’ is the word that I chose,” [Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson] Robinson told reporters. “This is where our initial investigation is taking us. We know that there was some controversy between the student suspect and the teacher.”
In the end, this may have been a case of a sick individual seeking revenge who also decided to “make a big splash” on his way out. Whether his will to carry out a mass slaughter faltered when the moment arrived or alert response tactics by the school made targets largely unavailable may remain one of the unknowns. But we still can’t refrain from trying to read more into the shooter’s motives and defining them through the usual ideological lens.
What’s been discovered so far seems to indicate that Pierson was well and truly embedded in an early, liberal world view. His disparaging comments about Republicans on social media, combined with his self-professed love for Keynesian economics makes that much clear. But the circumstances of his attack make it difficult to think that he arrived at school that day hell bent on striking a blow for the progressive agenda. Far more likely was the Sheriff’s analysis that he was there to kill the debate team coach who he perceived as having wronged him.
But that doesn’t mean that some ideological tilt and bias wasn’t discovered. As Mediaite reported, the Denver Post was apparently busy making sure he didn’t come off looking too far to the left.
In a profile on the shooter in the Denver Post which focused on his “strong political beliefs,” several of Pierson’s classmates offered their impressions of the shooter. One of the shooter’s classmates described him as a “very opinionated socialist.” Shortly after that post was published, however, that description was edited out. The current copy simply describes him as “very opinionated.”
If his own friends testified that he was a self-described socialist, why not report that as part of the story? I think that question pretty much answers itself. You can read the current version of the Denver Post story here. As near as I can tell, they have still neither returned the copy to its original form nor made note of the deletion.
Finally – and this should go without saying – when the inevitable calls for more gun control begin in the wake of this tragedy, they can be entirely ignored. This was yet another case of a person with no reported criminal record legally purchasing a shotgun (not an “assault rifle”) and shells in accordance with even the most restrictive laws. No background checks or bans on magazines or “excessively dangerous” guns would have prevented it. So spare us the sanctimonious speeches and lets figure out how families, communities and churches can do a better job of spotting problem individuals and keeping them from arriving at this sort of juncture in the future.