Play the Cards in Your Hand

As of this writing, it’s been a little over a month since the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead. It’s so late in the narrative that I feel like I don’t have anything new to add to the conversation. Little glimpses of the human side of the tragedy keep popping into my brain.

The fact that the massacre occurred just two days before summer vacation.

Realizing that the dead 9-, 10-, and 11-year-olds spent most of the last two years of their lives indoors during a pandemic, separated from their friends.

A row of lunchboxes at the back of the classroom containing never-to-be-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

As a publication focusing on safety and security at K–12 and higher education institutions, school shootings have always been one of Campus Security and Life Safety’s most engaging editorial topics. It draws the highest attendance at webinars; it racks up the largest number of podcast downloads. Our audience wants and needs to know how to be prepared and what to do should the unthinkable occur.

However, in the wake of the Uvalde shooting, the idea of using or referencing the attack for the sake of editorial content made my stomach churn. I scrolled through my personal Twitter account the day after the attack, scanning corporate tweet after corporate tweet offering thoughts and prayers and condolences to the people of Uvalde. Many of them read less like earnest sentiments and more like checking the box of socially conscious brand management.

Likewise, as we revised some of our editorial plans to match the timeliness of the topic, I couldn’t help but wonder if we were being exploitative. We talked about how terrible and tragic it was; we talked about the baffling nature of the police response (or, rather, the lack thereof). And again, maybe this was my inner cynic kicking in, but I felt like every conversation about how awful all this was carried the undertone of, “…but it’ll be great for business!”

But the truth of the matter is that we live in an imperfect world. Whether this magazine exists or not, active shooter incidents at U.S. schools have skyrocketed in the last year and a half. We’re not creating, instigating, or exacerbating the problem; we’re just publicizing solutions to it. We’re not profiting off of school shootings any more than seatbelt companies profit off of 18-car pileups.

It would be very nice if school shootings weren’t a thing. It would be wonderful if we didn’t have to fortify our schools with access control, video surveillance, or audio solutions; or to run active shooter drills; or to come up with mass notification or emergency preparedness plans. It would be great if we didn’t need to lock our doors or hire campus security guards or run background checks on teachers.

All we can do is play with the cards that we have in our hand right now. And as long as school shootings are a thing that keeps happening, we’ll keep needing all of the above precautions, because they help save lives that might otherwise be lost. And all we can do at Campus Security & Life Safety is react to terrible, unthinkable tragedies by addressing them head-on.

This article originally appeared in the July / August 2022 issue of Campus Security Today.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning and Campus Security and Life Safety. He can be reached at


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