There was a gun scare in my community this week and I’m angry

Yesterday an alert was sounded that a white man wearing black clothes with a backpack and holding a rifle was seen in the vicinity of a Waukee school. This caused the schools to be put on lockdown, an outdoor elementary track and field event to be moved from the High School track to the elementary facilities, uneasiness among the faculty and students, and more. News reporters converged on the town. Everybody had a sense of dread, waiting for the next bit of news.

And as the information trickled in, I began to become angry. Why aren’t they giving us more information? Why isn’t this all over the news outlets? Why haven’t they hardened the schools against attack yet? The day continued on, more or less a normal day, and our daughter got out of school and spent some time with her grandparents.

When we picked her up, I asked her about the event and she didn’t seem too upset about it. But she said that she heard through the grapevine that this gunman had been seen in close proximity to the school by students. When asked why that hadn’t been reported she didn’t know, and honestly I didn’t expect her to know. But then I asked if they got any pictures of this guy, who was walking near the school, but not firing his gun or taking any offensive posture toward anyone. She said no. They stood at the window and watched him for a few minutes, but not a single one of these children thought to pull out their smartphones and take so much as one picture.

That’s odd. These kids are addicted to their phones. And they take photos and videos of everything. Maybe not in a fight or flight situation, but if they are staring out the window at a bunny in the grass, they’re getting photos of it. Probably with Instragram filters. And a whole group of them didn’t think to reach into their pockets to take any pictures. The only rational conclusion of this is that the gunman was Bigfoot.

My spidey sense started tingling.

Fast forward to today, when I first saw this story about a local mother who is also angry. I echo the sentiments of Sara Coen. The fear, the vulnerability, the unknowing, those were very frustrating. The confusion was disorienting and the reports after the fact, while clarifying the situation somewhat, have also sparked some emotion. Anger.

Seriously, the terrorists have won. Does that sound like hyperbole? It did to me until I looked up “terrorism” in the Google. Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

This gunman, assuming there ever was one, did not use violence or intimidation according to this news report. There was only one report made, and from the released information it was a report of a man spotted near Stivers Ford with a rifle. No information has been forthcoming about what kind of rifle, not that it matters, or whether the rifle was secured in a case, which matters only on a societal base in Waukee, Iowa. Oh, we do know that the man had fair skin, which doesn’t matter, and we do know that he was wearing dark clothes and had a backpack. None of this is illegal in any way. Had he been on school grounds as described, the possession of any weapon would be a felony. But he wasn’t on school grounds. In fact, he wasn’t near any school grounds. 

The closest landmark to the scary man that Google Maps recognizes is Stivers Ford, a great place to buy a Ford vehicle. The closest public school to Stivers Ford is Prairieview school, a transitional school for 8th and 9th grade children, which semi-shares the High School parking lot. Using Google Maps, I routed a drive from Stivers Ford to Prairieview school and found that driving the 2.3 miles under normal conditions would take 5 minutes. But the man was said to be on foot. I need to adjust my calculations here. So make that 34 minutes walking 1.7 miles.

I’m all for safety in our schools. I have some reasonable ideas on how to improve that safety. Perhaps I’ll share them someday. But let’s think about this rationally. A single man with a gun was reported miles away from any school. Nothing this man was reported to be doing was threatening or illegal in any way. And events in the school were transferred to other locations because of this. The learning environment was disrupted. The parents were placed into a state of fear.

And for what? Maybe this guy was returning home after visiting the local gun club. Local what? The New Pioneer Gun Club is located inside the city limits of Waukee. And they’re easy to find when you’re in town. Just listen and head toward the sound of shotgun shells. I’m not saying this guy had been at the gun club. I am saying that the caller who sounded the alarm didn’t know if he had been there or not. They allegedly saw a gun in the community and reacted the only way they knew how.

So the terrorists are winning. But the terrorists, by definition, are not who we may think they are. Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

There was no violence here. Put that word out of your mind. There is intimidation. It was made against civilians. It was made in the pursuit of political aims. Until Google changes the definition of “terrorism” I can’t say much else about it. Was the Waukee Police Department right to follow up on a report? Yes. Was it appropriate for the schools to be locked down over an unverified report of law abiding activity? No. Were the students placed in fear over this? Yes. Was the fear directed at an inert object, possessing no inherent faculties of good or evil? Yes.

So who is the real terrorist here? I’ll let you come to your own conclusion. It’s not like anyone in this country is listening to any facts that don’t already agree with their presuppositions anyway.