A high school resource officer shot and killed a gunman at Great Mills High School in Great Mills, Maryland this morning after the gunman shot two fellow students with a handgun. The attacker, Austin Wyatt Rollins shot a fellow classmate, a 16-year-old female shortly before classes started this morning at 8 a.m. He then shot a 14-year-old male student. Authorities believe Rollins and the female student had a previous relationship.
The two students, whose identities have not been released, were rushed to the hospital. The female student’s condition is listed as critical with life-threatening injuries; the male’s as stable.
School resource officer Blaine Gaskill responded to the scene in less than a minute, authorities say. St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron said during a press conference that when Gaskill, confronted Rollins, the two fired rounds at each other simultaneously. Rollins was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. Gaskill was unharmed.
By some counts this was the seventeenth school shooting in the U.S. since January 1.
There has been a vigorous debate over the best way to combat the spate of school shootings in the U.S. in recent months. Gun control activists seek to impose stricter regulations on gun ownership while gun-rights activists want to fortify, or “harden” schools with more guards. Proposals to arm teachers have also been introduced.
Initiatives to assign more guards to schools have been heavily criticized in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last month in Parkland, FL, where seventeen people, mostly students, were killed.
It was reported that up to four Broward County Sheriff’s deputies failed to enter the building where the shooting was occurring, taking up positions behind their vehicles outside the school with their guns drawn instead.
Officer Blaine Gaskill is being hailed as a hero for his actions today, however. “He responded exactly as we train our personnel to respond,” Cameron said.
The White House unveiled a framework of initiatives aimed at reducing violence in the U.S. last week that included encouraging states to provide “rigorous” firearms training for “specially qualified” school personnel and to institute extreme risk protection orders, which allow authorities to remove firearms, with a court order, from individuals who are deemed to be a risk to themselves or others.
It also establishes a commission to find the best and most workable solutions to gun violence in schools. The commission will be chaired by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and will look at hardening the nation’s schools through the arming of teachers as well as possibly raising the eligibility age to purchase firearms.
It is unclear when any of the suggested measures, or others, will be acted on in the U.S. Congress.
In a statement to ITN, Danielle Vieth, Volunteer Leader of the Maryland Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America called for action and cautioned against complacency in the face of the increasing frequency of school shootings.
“Our hearts go out today to the families of Great Mills High School,” Vieth said. “Children can’t learn if they don’t feel safe, and increasingly many students are worried that school is a place where they need to fear for their lives. We cannot accept this as the norm, and we cannot accept that more than 90 people die from gun violence every day in our country.”
“This is a uniquely American problem, and American parents and concerned citizens have had enough,” she added.