Details are still emerging but early reports indicate that an armed school resource officer stopped an active shooter at Great Mills High School in Maryland Tuesday morning.
During an afternoon press conference, authorities identified the alleged perpetrator as 17-year-old Austin Wyatt Rollins. The two victims, a 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl have not been identified. The boy is in good condition.
Police said that the girl, who is in critical condition, may have known the shooter. There is an “indication that a prior relationship existed between the shooter and the female victim,” said Sheriff Tim Cameron of St. Mary’s County.
Cameron also identified the responding resource officer who confronted Rollins as Blaine Gaskill. “He pursued the shooter and engaged the shooter,” Cameron said.
Gaskill fired a round at Rollins and the 17-year-old returned fire. Gaskill was not injured. Rollins was mortally wounded. Though, it’s not clear at the moment whether it was the officer’s round that killed Rollins or if the teen later took his own life.
Either way, the sheriff said that there was “no question” that things could have been much worse if it wasn’t for Gaskill.
“This is what we train for. This is what we prepare for and this is what we pray we never have to do,” Cameron said. “And on this day we realized our worst nightmare that our greatest asset — our children — were attacked in a bastion of safety and security, one of our schools.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers are already talking about taking action in the wake of the shooting.
“In addition to a bill introduced by the Governor, we have four emergency measures championed by Senator Waugh, and cosponsored by myself to increase school safety,” wrote Mike Miller, the president of the Maryland Senate on Facebook.
“Taken together these bills will strengthen background checks, increase mental health services, assign more school resource officers, and provide funding for commonsense school safety measures such as lockable classroom doors,” he added.
Miller, a Democrat, said he hoped to have the “comprehensive legislative package” on the governor’s desk by the end of the session.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who endorsed hardening schools in recent weeks as well as a measure to confiscate guns from domestic abusers, said the incident serves as a “call to action.”
“Although our pain remains fresh and the facts remain uncertain, today’s horrible events should not be an excuse to pause our conversation about school safety,” said Hogan on Facebook. “Instead, it must serve as a call to action.”
As it relates to hardening schools, Hogan urged state lawmakers to pass a bill that sets aside $125 million to enhance school security. When it comes to arming teachers and other school personnel, though, he wasn’t as enthusiastic.
“I’m not sure it makes sense,” Hogan said in an interview published on Feb. 22 by WBAL. “Police officers and school security, if the local school boards make that decision that they want to arm them, I think that’s their right to do that. But I’m not sure it makes sense to have other school employees” armed.
Maybe Tuesday’s shooting will influence the governor’s stance. As armed resistance saves lives. We want more armed good guys. Not fewer.