Searching for Answers in the Wake of the Latest School Shooting

I struggled with my decision on whether to write this article or not. Bull Market Rodeo features commentaries on politics, policy, the economy and investing. I tend to keep my commentaries focused on the market and the economy. But the latest school shooting has occupied my mind for the last few days and I felt the need to express my thoughts here. I am not looking to spark angry comments or get bashed for my thoughts, but this one is different for me.

The mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday happened in my own back yard. I live less than 30 miles from the school. I have friends with children in the school. I coach with a travel basketball program that is based in that school district, and we have had a number of players from the school. This shooting was way too close to home.

I initially heard about the shooting Wednesday afternoon when my phone started blowing up with text messages and instant messages from friends in Indiana and Ohio. I was out running errands and had not seen the news on TV yet. My friends were concerned that the school might be where my children go and the school where I used to coach, but that was Park Vista High School. My friends saw Parkland and became concerned. My thoughts turned immediately to my friends Jeff and Kim and whether their son Mitchell was okay. Were Lou’s kids okay? What about the kids in our travel basketball program, were they okay?

When I got home, I immediately turned on the local news to try to get as much information as I could as I prepared Valentine’s Day dinner for my wife. We generally turn off the TV at dinner time so that our family can talk about our days, but Wednesday night we left the TV on. One thing I noticed about the local news was that they were focused on the victims and suspect.

After a few hours of watching, I had to turn the news off as it was literally making me sick. I tried to escape by watching a college basketball game, my favorite thing to do during the season. But even basketball wasn’t providing much of a relief for me. Eventually I turned on CNN to see if there was any additional information coming out. CNN seemed to be focused on the gun debate and stricter gun laws. Out of curiosity I changed over to Fox News and they were focused on the mental health issues of the suspect.

By watching three different news sources, I got three different perspectives about the shooting and it made me realize that we have a number of problems in this country that are creating these tragedies. We have a gun problem. We have a mental health problem. We have a bullying problem. We have a problem with a lack of respect for human life. We have a problem with various media forms that seem to glorify violence.

The different sides of the political spectrum tend to point to one item or another, but the fact of the matter is that these tragedies are happening because of a number of factors. Those that lean to the left of the political spectrum tend to point to gun control first and foremost. Those that lean to the right tend to point to mental health issues. Others point to the glorification of violence in video games, TV and movies. Still others point to a decline in morals and values. All of these factors need to be considered.

While I have watched the story unfold over the last two days, I thought about how I have probably crossed paths with several of the victims. I have been to Stoneman Douglas High School several times for athletic events and marching band events. I have probably crossed paths with the football coach and the athletic director, and both lost their lives helping their students.

One victim was in the marching band and another was in the color guard. My wife and oldest son were scoring officials for the state marching band competition back in November. They watched the band member and color guard member celebrate as Stoneman Douglas won the state championship. Only three months ago they were celebrating with their band mates, friends and families, and now they are gone.

The anguish and sorrow is still there and will be for a long time, but part of my emotional state has shifted to one of anger. I have kept quiet on social media about the shooting, but I have watched as friends posted various things. My anger stems from the posts that are using this tragedy to promote their views. Memes that show a cartoon of the second amendment shielding the NRA, people posting the second amendment, memes and posts from both sides depicting their views… Now is not the time for that.

I have followed several conversations without commenting myself. The name calling is ridiculous and unproductive – liberal idiot, gun-loving conservative, and moron, are some of the ones I saw and could print. It goes on and on and does nothing to help.

I am not vain enough to think that I know what the answer is, but I do know that name calling and bickering on social media isn’t the answer. I have owned guns in the past and have fired many different weapons. My father owns 15-20 guns, but he is a responsible gun owner that keeps them locked in a gun safe and only three people have the combination to it. I am not anti-gun and I support the Second Amendment. I also support the rest of the constitution. But one person’s constitutional right should not mean another person loses their right to live.

Until our political leaders sit down and have a civilized conversation and a bipartisan solution can be thought out and processed, nothing is going to change. We can’t afford to continue the typical party-line bickering and have nothing get done for another 10 years. Our children are dying. Now is not the time to side with your party on that premise alone. Now is the time to vote with your heart and your head.

About Rick Pendergraft

Rick has been studying, trading, analyzing and writing about the investment markets for over 30 years. He has worked for some of the largest financial publishers in the world and he has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the New York Times and the Washington Post. In addition, he has been interviewed on Bloomberg, CNBC and Fox Business News. Rick’s analysis process includes fundamental, sentiment and technical analysis. Rick started college as an education major, wanting to teach economics, but eventually changed to majoring in Economics and received a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Wright State University. His desire to inform and educate people is at the heart of his writing.


  1. I could not agree with you more Rick! Thank you for taking a stand. I too am sick of politicians whose personal political agendas run roughshod over everything else! Truth is, we have too many people in responsible government positions who are as Anti-American as they can be. It’s a tragic truth that needs to be repeated that terror attacks are most likely to happen where 100% Gun Control is already in place! They want school shootings and anarchy and gun control and un-vetted immigration, and they love to pit one faction against another.

    They are the same ones who tolerate people chanting “What do we want? Dead Cops!” and other similar radical behavior and rioting.

    We are the frog in the kettle of warm water being slowly boiled to death – that is unless we wake up and rise up and take action to return our nation to the Godly principles upon which it was founded! Nothing short of that Godly wisdom will ever work, because we are already witnessing the best that man’s wisdom is able to produce, and it’s growing steadily worse!

    • Sorry but I think you probably missed the point.

      To me it was that taking sides in this does not get us anywhere. Invoking unrepresentative quotes to put down all of one side of an argument, and God to back another is not really useful. Clearly Christ would not have advocated anyone using a gun to protect themselves or their rights, but our secular government policy should not be based on any religion.

      We need open-minded discussions focused on building consensus about what we want to achieve in our schools, we need to look at evidence, here and abroad, and we need put aside broader agendas, both for gun control and gun proliferation. Both of those may have to change, if we think our children’s lives and education may be more important

  2. Any Gunpowder Residue Evidence (found yet) On Shooter, Nikolas Cruz || How could these students think there was more than one shooter? What if there is no gunshot residue on Cruz? Will they ever tell us? I am glad, however, that a troubled and distressed youth is getting help. (This may be “off topic” for you, but should/would you know about the experience of these kids perceiving/observing there was more than one shooter? Would you Ever be able to see/evaluate their information any other way?)

  3. This problem is not likely be solved anytime soon: Conservatives are not willing to to give up their guns, and Liberals seem unwilling to accept that modern society is creating bad people for a myriad of reasons they they are unwilling or unable to address, let alone implement the kind of polices that might actually work to ameliorate the situation.
    George Washington once said that “an armed society is a polite society,” and it is easy to see that even crazy people are not necessarily stupid, routinely attacking soft targets like schools where they are unlikely to encounter resistance. I know from long experience that it is a both a heavy responsibility and a pain in the butt to carry concealed, but as long as there are bad guys and crazies out there, I will continue to act rationally and carry my gun. I would love to live in a world where that is not necessary, but at 71 I doubt I could fight off much of an attack without my SIG.

  4. To me, a significant solution to gun violence is in plain sight. Start with the “gun problem”. The second amendment (which I support) does not include the possession of military assault weapons of which the AR-15 is. U.S. citizens are not permitted to possess grenade launchers, rocket launchers, anti-aircraft missiles etc.. We made ‘Tommy’ guns illegal in the 30’s. Assualt weapons should be illegal. If that is too big of a step, start with background checks. In other words, try common sense. For me, the Republicans appear to have sold their souls to embrace Trump. I love my country but am deeply saddened to try and explain why Trump is my president to my Grandchildren. The youth of this country will change things. It will take time.

    • Thing is… AR 15 is not an “assault weapon”. Put it side by side with the “Ranch Rifle”, and its the same: same caliber, same action, same ballistics. You call it an assault weapon due to its cosmetics, Pistol grip, adjustable stock, etc.
      Seems to me it would have to be capable of fully automatic fire, and probably of .30 caliber or heavierto carry that appelation.
      Of course, the Garand M! rifle carried only 8 shots, fired one at a time, had a plain stock and was the Best rifle in use in WWII, Truly an assault weapon.
      I sent the following letter to the local paper, and all of my Congressmen today……

      We’ve got a major problem in our schools. And though it has not
      manifested itself yet in Baxter County, we could be next.

      May I offer this as a possible solution. A lot of our young men
      have been trained by the military to use weapons, and are then sent home when their enlistments are ended. Some of them not only have training in weapons (guns) but also in animals (bomb
      sniffing dogs etc.).
      These two resources could go a long way in protecting our schoolchildren. And they are available with a bit of effort.
      A possible school shooter would think twice if faced with a
      120 pound German Shepherd or Doberman that has been trained
      to protect kids by attacking those who would harm them. Or if he knew that the dogs handler was armed and ready to protect the children.

      We need to avail ourselves of these people and animals
      to solve our “shooter” problem.

  5. Why do you need 15 to 20 guns? For self defence, one hand gun would be adequate, although many people have died because of hand guns in the home. For hunting, one or two would be adequate, a shotgun for duck hunting, maybe a rifle of whatever calibre is necessary for the big game that you hunt, what else?
    No one needs assault rifes.
    In Canada, we have roughly the same mental health problems as the US and many of the same conditions that lead to these massacres, but we don’t have the same ongoing killings – we have gun laws, maybe not perfect but we don’t have the killings.

  6. Well written assessment! Thank you for a wholelistic approach.
    Since you didn’t bring up Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), and the fact that the shooter was adopted, I will.
    Many parents who adopt are not educated about how to give back all that is stolen away when children are radically detached from parents. Also, support groups should be included in the therapy needed.
    Friends, whom had many children with attachment disorders said, “We were praying God would fix our kids, and we learned God needed to fix us.”
    “God searches for people through whom He can do the impossible, what a pity we do only what we can do ourselves.” AW Tozer

  7. Malcolm,
    If shootings in our inner cities (you don’t yet have places like Chicago or Baltimore) are left out, our murder rates are similar to yours. It’s not the guns. Furthermore, those murdered in Canada endure painful, lingering suffering while waiting for their killer to finish strangling them, or suffocating them, or drowning them, or beating them to death.

    You think taking away guns will reduce violence and death, but Canada and London both prove that it doesn’t work. Like I told Nathan, if guns are less available, other tools will be used. Criminals in London have turned to knives. London now sees more murders than New York. Hands and feet kill more people in the US every year than ALL rifles, let alone AR-15 style rifles.

    The AR-15 is not an assault rifle. An assault rifle is fully automatic and an AR-15 is not. Armalite invented that configuration as a sporting rifle. The configuration was adopted for the M-16, but that does not make the AR-15 an assault rifle.

    Background checks are already in place in the US. Several of the recent mass murders and many murders of 1-3 people have been committed by perps who should not have passed their background check, but the government failed to put the required data into the system.

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