Florida terror brings another level of fear

The killing field that Parkland, Fla.’s, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School became Wednesday afternoon has injected new fear into parents, teachers, school officials and communities as a whole.

The incident, which claimed 17 students and teachers and left another dozen with wounds, also has triggered a new round of concern about why this nation has continued to sidestep a more vigorous discussion about such violence.

As a community, Altoona and Blair County value rights granted by this nation’s Founders under the Second Amendment, and advocate that those rights not be usurped.

The same holds true for other parts of this region and beyond.

However, that should not preclude a comprehensive discussion about gun violence, without paranoia from any side of the issue guiding that debate. And, while President Donald Trump avoided mention of the word “gun” in the aftermath of Wednesday’s incident, it is in fact the president, along with top administration and congressional leaders, who should be leading that discourse.

Leaders of the National Rifle Association should have a place at the discussion table.

Some people might not realize it, but Wednesday’s horrific incident in Parkland wasn’t the first school shooting this year resulting in injury or death. There were five prior incidents, although not wreaking as heavy a toll like the one at the Florida school.

That’s six shootings over just about 30 school days since the start of 2018.

Meanwhile, according to Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, researchers at the FBI and Texas State University tracked 44 active-shooter incidents at schools from 2000 through 2015, and that research revealed the stunning statistics that a total of 268 people were shot and 132 killed in those 44 incidents.

Obviously, those numbers now are significantly larger. Children should be safe — and their teachers and other school officials should be safe and free from worry — every day that classes are in session. The needed discourse on the federal, state and local levels should focus on why that safety isn’t more prevalent.

That discourse needs to take place without being restrained by politics’ leash.

There is room for the needed discussion — and whatever positive results might emanate from that discussion — without political careers being jeopardized, although some politicians might disagree vehemently.

It’s an insult to this country that an attempt at such substantive discussion has been avoided while the school-shootings death toll has continued to grow. Additionally, there is room for questions about the school security that was in place on Wednesday at Parkland — how an AR-15 was able to get through the door.

All educational facilities across America need additional thought about their security measures, and their staffs and students need to know how to react to an active-shooter situation.

The Altoona Area School District, which has been proactive on the security front, held another active-shooter training session for staff on Friday, led by the Pennsylvania State Police.

Shooter Nikolas Cruz was living with a number of troubling personal issues that shaped his life leading up to Wednesday. There are people who feel sorrow for him, as well as the intense anger of which he’s deserving.

But putting an end to the killing fields extends far beyond Parkland.

The question again has become whether there’s a window in America for the well-meaning intent, courage and foresight necessary to fairly and properly attack what’s wrong.