The word reached the Triad first via social media: Lockdown.
Late Tuesday afternoon, local parents began hearing from their children, enrolled in UNC Charlotte, that the campus was on lockdown after a reported shooting. Fear clung in the air not only for the students who huddled in rooms on campus, but for their parents and other loved ones, in Winston-Salem, in Greensboro, in other cities throughout the state and country.
Even the eventual “all clear” Wednesday morning failed to provide adequate relief. The possibility of mass murder on campuses — all school campuses — still exists, and will until our gun laws change.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the last day of class, a former UNC Charlotte student allegedly walked into a classroom with a pistol and opened fire, killing two people and injuring four others.
The suspect was subsequently disarmed and taken into custody. Because of a scheduled concert, more police officers than usual were close by. By all reports, they were swift and professional. We appreciate their responsiveness.
The two who lost their lives were Ellis Parlier, 19, of Midland and Riley Howell, 21, of Waynesville.
Howell died a hero, having confronted the shooter and knocked him down in an effort to stop him. If not for his action, many more may have died.
But Howell should not have had to confront the shooter in the first place. The fact that this man was able to walk onto a UNC campus with a legally accessed firearm reflects a statewide and nationwide failure to adopt policies and sensible gun control measures to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
As of this writing, we know nothing about the shooter’s motives. Motives in mass shootings vary. The one commonality is easy access to firearms.
And that’s the one factor our legislators, in Raleigh and in Washington, are most reluctant to address.
To say it for probably the 1,000th time: This doesn’t happen in any other civilized country in the world. It’s only in the U.S. that we’re willing to sacrifice our own children on the altar of unrestricted access to firearms.
After a rare mass shooting in New Zealand earlier this year, the country tightened gun restrictions within days. After a mass shooting in Australia in 1996, the country tightened gun restrictions, and as a result, mass shootings there are practically nonexistent.
Following the Charlotte assault on Tuesday, a popular right-wing pundit commented on Twitter that Australians have more guns now than before the 1996 restrictions went into effect, as if to say that restrictions fail.
But that actually proves the point: Stringent gun regulations and responsible gun ownership can co-exist while curbing mass shootings.
Florida’s House of Representatives voted Wednesday to pass a bill allowing teachers to carry guns in the classroom. Similar legislation has been proposed in North Carolina, and some see it as common sense. But in reality, putting more guns into play just makes such situations more dangerous.
It also reflects the cynical pessimism of surrendering the fight to keep guns out of the hands of killers. We’re willing to let our children face gun battles in schools rather than limit access to guns in the first place.
We can’t say “never again.” This will keep happening until our legislators take adequate steps to stop it — in other words, it will keep happening until the public finally has enough and elects responsible legislators who will take action.
We’ve said before that it was only a matter of time until such violence reached our state. How much longer will it be until it reaches our city?