3 Things We Know About the School Shooting in Maryland

Maryland's strict gun laws didn't stop this school shooter. An armed resource officer did.

Deputies, federal agents and rescue personnel, converge on Great Mills High School, the scene of a shooting, Tuesday morning, March 20, 2018 in Great Mills, Md.

By Liberty McArtor Published on March 21, 2018

A headline all too familiar flashed across our screens Tuesday. Another school shooting, this time at Great Mills High School in Maryland. Many of us immediately feared a Parkland repeat. Thankfully, the shooting stopped almost as soon as it started. The shooter injured two students. The only person dead is the shooter himself.

We should thank God the shooting wasn’t worse. We should pray for the victims’ full recovery — one is in critical condition — and also pray for the family of the shooter. Next, we should examine the facts to determine how this happened. We’re still waiting for all the information. But there are a few things we know. Let’s take a look. 

1. The Shooter Possessed a Handgun Illegally, Despite Maryland’s Strict Gun-Purchasing Laws

Authorities have identified the shooter as 17-year-old Austin Wyatt Rollins. Because of his age alone, he was not allowed to possess a handgun under state law. Even for adults over 21 in Maryland, the process for purchasing a handgun is rigorous. Here’s a summary of the steps required: 

Gun control advocates frequently push waiting periods, extensive background checks and mandatory training. But in this case, they did not prevent a 17-year-old from obtaining a 9mm Glock and bringing it to school. 

2. Maryland’s Ban on High Capacity Magazines and Assault Weapons Didn’t Stop The Shooting

Maryland State law bans certain “assault weapons,” along with magazines which hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. What qualifies as an illegal assault weapon under Maryland law? If it’s a semi-automatic rifle with detachable magazines, it cannot contain two or more of the following: 

  • A pistol grip — this attaches beneath the action of the rifle, to be held with the firing hand. It simply makes the rifle more comfortable to hold while shooting.
  • A folding stock — this allows the stock (non-firing end) of the gun to fold so that the overall gun becomes shorter. Since folding the stock makes the rifle much more inaccurate and difficult to shoot, folding stocks are not usually used for firing, but rather transporting.
  • A grenade launcher or flare launcher — that’s pretty self explanatory.
  • A flash suppressor — this minimizes the visible flash from the barrel of the rifle when fired.
  • A forward pistol grip — a pistol grip that attaches beneath the barrel, to be held with the non-firing hand.

That’s not all. “Assault weapons” banned under Maryland law also include:

  • Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines that can accept silencers, a second handgrip, and other features.
  • Semi-automatic shotguns with two or more of the features listed above.
  • Shotguns with revolving cylinders.

For a full list of “assault weapons” banned in Maryland, read the legislation. These bans are mostly useless. Under such laws, the difference between a legal gun and an illegal gun can rest solely on a primarily cosmetic alteration.

Moreover, criminals rarely use “assault weapons” in mass public shootings. As The Daily Signal recently reported, “Six out of every 10 mass public shootings are carried out by handguns alone, while only one in 10 is committed with a rifle alone.” Additionally, “Few mass public shooters have used ‘high-capacity magazines,’ and there is no evidence that the lethality of their attacks would have been affected by delays of two to four seconds to switch magazines.”

On Tuesday, Maryland’s assault weapons restrictions did nothing to stop a school shooting, since, as in most crimes of gun violence, the shooter used a handgun. 

3. An Armed Resource Officer Stopped the Shooter and Saved the Day

Everyone should be giving thanks for Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill, the resource officer who stopped Tuesday’s shooting. Within one minute of the shooter’s first shot, Gaskill responded, AP reports. According to St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron, “He had to cover significant ground.” He added, “The premise is simple: You go to the sound of gunfire.”

The resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland is under investigation for his response — or lack thereof — during the shooting that killed 17 last month. He’s faced harsh criticism for not entering the building where the shooting took place. Regardless of the outcome of that investigation, one thing is clear. Tuesday’s shooting in Maryland ended because Gaskill responded immediately — and used his gun.

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Cameron said Gaskill fired at the shooter, but the shooter fired at the same time. It’s currently unclear whether the shooter aimed at Gaskill or himself. But Gaskill can take the credit for containing the situation. Gaskill is uninjured.  


As always, we should wait for all the facts before jumping to conclusions. Then, we can accurately assess which laws, if any, worked to stop the crime. But these three things are already clear:

  • Maryland’s strict handgun purchasing laws did not ultimately stop a 17-year-old school shooter from possessing a handgun. 
  • Maryland’s strict assault weapons ban did not stop Tuesday’s school shooting. 
  • An armed school resource officer with proper training and quick response time did stop the shooting.

Join me in praying for the victims of Tuesday’s shooting, and spreading accurate information about guns, gun laws and their effects mass killings like school shootings. For a helpful rundown of mass killing statistics, start here.

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  • JP

    arm the teachers and admins and you will see these shootings stop.

    • Paul

      I’m in support of school staff being able to be armed and trained to properly use weapons, but to say these things will stop as a result is unrealistic. The underlying societal problems still exist, and now after Austin, those so inclined may be further inspired to seek other methods to express their evil. I’ll refrain here from educating uncreative evil people, but I’ll simply say that the general public in the US has no clue how vulnerable they really are. Armed school staff helps tip the scales and makes the target a bit harder, but we’ll still see evil rear its ugly head. At least more people are waking up to the painfully obvious fact that a ‘gun free zone’ simply makes things easier for evil people.

      • Charles Burge

        I fully agree that we have massive societal problems. However, I also think deterrence is a powerful factor. When would-be mass killers start to figure out that their victims are likely to shoot back, I think the number of these incidents will be reduced significantly.

        • Paul

          Yes indeed, armed deterrence is very useful. Mass shootings are not very common at the gun range.

  • Paul

    This reminds me of the Antioch TN church massacre… oh but wait, it was cut short because an usher fought back.

  • jgmusgrove

    As the third point makes clear, the evil guy with a gun was stopped by a good guy with a gun!

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