What could have been a news cycle about yet another mass school shooting in America instead focused on a different type of terrorism this week—suspicious packages sent to high-profile public figures, all of them critics of President Donald Trump.
Thankfully, none of the apparent mail bombs actually detonated, and everyone is safe. Law enforcement authorities successfully arrested the man they believe is responsible.
As talking heads fill the airwaves yelling at one another about who’s to blame (answer: the man who sent the suspicious packages), few realize how lucky we are not to be discussing more children who left to go to school one day and never returned home.
It started when a New Jersey mom of three received threatening messages on Facebook from a man in Kentucky she didn’t know. The messages attacked the mother’s interracial family and said her three children should be hanged.
The mother, Koeberle Bull, looked at the man’s profile online and saw he lived in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. She also learned that he was holding weapons in his profile picture. So on Oct. 17, Bull, who is widowed, alerted Kentucky authorities about the man and his threatening messages.
Days later, authorities credited her with prompting an investigation that averted two Kentucky school shootings.
The day after Bull alerted authorities, Kentucky State Police arrested the suspect as he was pulling out of his driveway. Police said they found “a firearm, over 200 rounds of ammunition, a Kevlar vest, a 100-round high capacity magazine, and a detailed plan of attack … in the possession of the subject.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that as a result of this investigation we saved lives,” Police Commissioner Rick Sanders said at a news conference. “This young man had it in his mind to go to schools and create havoc. He had the tools necessary, the intent necessary, and the only thing that stood between him and evil and doing evil is law enforcement.”
The suspect pleaded not guilty to making terroristic threats, WTXF-TV reported, and remains in police custody. Bull says she’s “not a hero,” but even her children disagree.
In the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed, we know the shooter was the subject of dozens of missed red flags, including multiple 911 calls and at least two separate tips to the FBI.
But in the case of the averted Kentucky school shooting, all it took was one tip from a mom hundreds of miles away. A state trooper looked into it, federal law enforcement came in to support, and together, they stopped what could have been a terrible crime.
Was it good luck, or is this how the system is supposed to work?
“Unfortunately, that law enforcement response never happened at Parkland,” said Amy Swearer, a legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation who studies school shootings. “This is a lesson we can’t allow ourselves to forget–these types of threats and threatening behaviors need to be taken seriously by both civilians and by law enforcement. Thank God, that’s exactly what happened here.”
In an era of political correctness and a whole host of ugliness online, it’s easy to think reporting threatening behaviors to the police won’t make a difference.
Sadly, in Parkland, that’s what happened. But what happened in Kentucky tells us the opposite. It tells us that a single person from miles away can trigger an investigation that can stop a school shooting. It tells us that when law enforcement respond to threats seriously and swiftly, they can succeed at their jobs. Had Kentucky police officers waited one more day, it might have been too late.
What happened in Kentucky also tells us that preventing school shootings doesn’t always require changing laws or taking away guns.
“We have two very different endings between what happened in Kentucky and what happened in Florida,” Swearer said. “The difference was not that Kentucky restricted the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding young adults or banned certain types of commonly used firearms, while Florida did not. The difference between life and death for these students was, rather, that the Kentucky State Police acted properly and promptly to investigate credible threats of violence.”
In this case, “See something, say something” actually worked.
No matter your stance on the Second Amendment, everyone should be encouraged by this.
A version of this Op-Ed previously appeared on The Daily Signal website under the headline, “Proof That ‘See Something, Say Something’ Can Stop a School Shooting”
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