Saturday marks 20 years since the slaughter of 13 individuals at Columbine High School. Since then, there have been school shootings throughout the country that have claimed hundreds of lives.
And still, gun policies have withstood the pressure to change.
Today, 20 years after the shooting that marred the correlation between innocence and education, we are left hiding in our homes as a Florida woman threatened Colorado schools.
Official reports about Sol Pais and her intentions were sent out Monday night and were followed by a series of school lock downs on Tuesday.
The woman, who had traveled to Colorado from Miami, was said to be infatuated with the Columbine attacks and had made credible threats that sparked a massive manhunt.
While authorities searched for Pais, school districts sent out warning emails and called off extra-curricular activities. More than 200 schools and districts canceled school on Wednesday.
At around 11 a.m. Wednesday, Pais was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
According to The New York Times, there have been 50 mass murders or attempted mass murders at schools since Columbine. Since then no federal legislation tightening gun laws has been passed, other than an assault weapons ban that was allowed to expire in 2004.
In fact, in Colorado if a buyer is at least 18 years old and has no prior criminal record, one can legally purchase a gun.
Pais traveled from Miami to Colorado and did just that. Although her parents claim that she suffered from mental problems, Pais was able to buy a shotgun and ammunition upon her arrival.
While Pais’ threats never came to fruition, the aftershock is still being felt.
Tweets and emails were sent to parents and guardians stating that there was no longer a threat. Further emails were sent with advice on how to talk to children about the incident and school closures for the day.
“Make time to talk to your child and assure your students that they are safe” were just some pieces of advice given to parents and guardians. And so, conversations will begin about the good, the bad and the ugly that exist in this world.
Parents and teachers will remind their students that their safety is a top priority and that all measures that can be taken to ensure that promise will be. School psychologists will be on deck, and debriefings will be held for staff.
There is no doubt that authorities did their best to ensure the safety of students and educators. But what about the other questions that will be left unanswered? What should parents or teachers say when a child asks what else is being done to limit gun violence? What anecdote do we offer when a child asks what is being done at the federal level?
Do we offer examples from New Zealand’s government and its response to the mosque attack? Do we tell our children to go out and vote? Or do we remind them of their Second Amendment and the troubles that ensue when a government “infringes” on a citizen’s rights?
Thankfully, this story doesn’t end with yet another school shooting tragedy. Thankfully, we can all rest assured that Pais no longer poses a threat to Colorado students. But as we talk to our students today, will government officials also be listening?
Riley Krumpholz is a staff member in a north Denver school district.
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