Total elapsed time: 80 seconds

Good guy with gun stops bad guy with gun



On Dec. 13, Karl Halverson Pierson, a disgruntled student, entered Arapahoe High School in Littleton in a murderous frame of mind.


Pierson, 18, brought with him a shotgun, about 125 rounds of ammunition, three Molotov cocktails, a machete and a grudge against the school librarian, who also served as the school’s debate team coach and had suspended Pierson from the team.

Pierson headed for the library. He fired a shot down a hallway. Then he shot Claire Davis, 17, in the head at point blank range while she was sitting with a friend in the hall. He shot her for no apparent reason other than that she happened to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” according to Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson. She died on Dec. 21.

According to the Associated Press, Pierson fired off three more shots and lit off a Molotov cocktail, which fortunately failed to explode.

Seconds later, he reached the library.

Then he shot himself. Total elapsed time: 80 seconds.

(He never encountered the librarian/debate coach, who hasn’t been identified; the librarian appears to have been alerted that trouble was on the way and left the building.)

According to Sheriff Robinson, Pierson shot himself less than a minute and a half after his rampage began because a school resource officer, or more plainly, an armed sheriff ’s deputy assigned to the school, was “closing in.”

Robinson said that the size of Pierson’s arsenal suggested that he didn’t intend to limit his killing to the librarian. So did the fact that he had written the numbers of five classrooms on his arm in ink, along with the Latin phrase “The die is cast.” The fact that he randomly shot Ms. Davis would be further evidence of that as well.

“His intent was evil, and his evil intent was to harm multiple individuals,” Robinson said.

However, Pierson’s rampage ended with his suicide 80 seconds after it began, with one dead instead of dozens, because an armed security officer intervened.

Or, to put it another way, Pierson’s rampage ended 80 seconds after it began, because, unlike the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., and most of the other school shootings in the U.S., Pierson wasn’t the only person in the school who had a gun.

There was also an armed officer present who had a gun, who knew how to use it, and who, when the moment of truth arrived, swiftly moved to confront evil.

Shortly after the Newtown killings, Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, held a press conference at which he called for putting armed security officers in every school in the country.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said. “Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away or a minute away?” Gun control advocates, and progressives generally, predictably sneered.

“They [the NRA] offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“They were blaming it on all kinds of other things instead of guns themselves,” said Medea Benjamin, co-director of the political exhibitionist group Code Pink, who was escorted out of LaPierre’s press conference after holding up a poster that read “NRA blood on your hands.”

“If your purpose is to reduce gun violence in schools, then the solution isn’t to add more guns to schools,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association.

He called the NRA proposal “out of touch.”

The American people disagreed. A Pew Research poll taken a couple weeks after LaPierre made his proposal found that 64 percent of those surveyed agreed with the NRA. Among those agreeing with the NRA was the Newtown School Board, which voted unanimously to put armed guards in all of its schools.

I don’t know whether Arapahoe High School got its armed guard before or after Sandy Hook, but that is beside the point. The important point is that when evil struck it had one. According to press reports, the resource officer was in the school cafeteria when Pierson started shooting. He went racing down the hall toward the library, warning people to take cover along the way, and essentially bottled up Pierson in the library, at which point Pierson realized the game was up and shot himself. Total elapsed time: 80 seconds.

Compare that with Sandy Hook.

There is no armed officer present. Adam Lanza, the shooter, entered the school at approximately 9:30 a.m., by shooting his way through a locked glass door. The first 911 call reached the Newtown police at 9:35 a.m. The first officers reached the school at 9:39 a.m. At 9:40 a.m. the officers heard the last shot that was fired — the one with which Lanza ended his own life as the police arrived. At 9:45 a.m. — 15 minutes after the massacre began and 5 minutes after it ended — officers entered the school.

Or, to put it another way, when seconds count, the police are there in minutes.

In the 10 minutes during which Lanza had his way in the school, he killed 20 students and six teachers and wounded two others.

The Arapahoe High attack occurred one day before the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. Its outcome showed that LaPierre was right and that his progressive critics were arrogant ignoramuses who cannot be trusted to secure the safety of children or anyone else. Total elapsed time: 364 days and 80 seconds.

Respond: This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.