The animated video of the Parkland school shooting was put together by state investigators with a gentle touch. Students are represented by circles. Victims change colors depending on their health status. It's clear the violence is being purposefully sanitized for the sake of forensic review.
And yet none of that erases the anguish. Watch the video enough times and you can sense the terror felt by every frightened student. The helplessness. The grief of those left behind and, yes, the anger.
Watch the video enough times and you might decide this level of horror warrants an extraordinary response. The question is, where do you draw that line?
A year ago, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was certain that school safety was best handled by law enforcement officers. But after watching the state's video timeline, as well as the raw feeds from school cameras, Gualtieri is now convinced that lives might have been saved if a handful of trained school employees had been permitted to carry guns on campus.
And, as the chairman of the state's commission on school safety, Gualtieri now believes the question of arming qualified school teachers and administrators should at least be discussed.
"What I'm saying is let's not make this an ideological decision, let's look at the facts and the evidence,'' Gualtieri said. "What can we do to give kids a fighting chance? That's the type of discussion I'm advocating needs to be had.''
Maybe Gualtieri's recent conversion is appropriate. And maybe, when the commission makes its final recommendations, it will decide arming teachers is the way to go.
But the details of those four minutes of terror are not the only facts that need to be considered. As horrific as that afternoon at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was, there is another consideration that should not be overlooked:
Parkland was a tragedy, not an epidemic.
That acknowledgement does not diminish or minimize the loss of 17 lives. And it does not mean that another shooting can't happen on another Florida campus today or tomorrow.
It's just a recognition that, in the grand scheme of things, school shootings are still rare occurrences. And we need to think long and hard about potentially altering the dynamics of classrooms forever by putting more guns in the hands of non-professionals.
Do you know how many students were killed by guns on campus in Florida in the 18 years prior to Parkland? Three, according to a Washington Post database. One was accidental, one was a cop killing a student with a pellet gun, and one was a student killing a friend who had reportedly spurned her romantic overtures.
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More than 4,000 public schools, nearly 3 million students every year and almost two decades of classroom instruction, and Florida had zero mass casualty situations from the year 2000 until Parkland.
That might be little consolation to the families of those victims, but doesn't it need to be part of the equation going forward? It's possible, maybe even likely, that arming school personnel will save lives during an active shooter situation at some undetermined point in the future, but what kind of drawbacks and risks would it create along the way?
Florida is already moving in the right direction with security measures that harden schools. The hiring of more school resource officers, security guards and mental health counselors is also critical.
Hopefully, those reforms will be enough. But Gualtieri is concerned they are not being implemented quickly enough, or even at all.
"If I had greater confidence that the needle could be moved faster toward providing the necessary security, then I may not feel this way,'' Gualtieri said. "But right now, I don't see them moving the needle enough.''
Whether that's the fault of school districts ignoring state mandates, or the state Legislature failing to provide enough funds is open for debate. Either way, it's a problem.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again:
Children will be safer if schools have more security, and more security costs more money. Provide the funds, and then make sure school districts follow through on every security requirement.
Because doing nothing is both risky and reckless.
And relying on armed teachers seems cheap and paranoid.
We need to look at the lessons of Parkland, but we also need to remember that millions of students go to school safely day after day, year after year.
Contact John Romano at email@example.com or follow at @romano_tbtimes.