The NRA’s narrative about Maryland school shooting collapses

A good guy with a gun wasn't enough to prevent two deaths and an injury.

CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images
CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Six days after the National Rifle Association pointed to a school shooting in Maryland as an example of how guns save lives, the NRA’s spin fell apart.

The gun lobby argued that last week’s shooting was stopped by an armed school resource officer, proving that “good guys with guns” can prevent tragedies. But the St. Mary’s County sheriff’s office confirmed on Monday night that the 17-year-old gunman who opened fire at Great Mills High School actually died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

According to the sheriff’s office, the gunman — identified as Austin Wyatt Rollins — parked his car at 7:50 a.m. and walked through the school’s main entrance last Tuesday. Seven minutes later, he approached 16-year-old Jaelynn Wiley and shot her in the head. Wiley, who had been in a relationship with the shooter, died two days later from her injuries. The shot that killed Wiley also struck 14-year-old Desmond Barnes, injuring him in the leg. All of this occurred before calls were placed to 911 starting at 7:58 a.m.

The Baltimore Sun describes what happened next:

After firing the handgun, Rollins kept walking through the school, where he was confronted by school resource officer Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill just after 8 a.m. Their weapons went off simultaneously 31 seconds later, with Rollins shooting himself in the head and Gaskill shooting Rollins in the hand, officials said.

The shot Rollins fired was fatal, according to the sheriff’s office.

Gaskill was not injured. Rollins died later that morning at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center in La Plata.

Within hours of last week’s violence in Maryland, the NRA — which has teamed up with President Trump to push for the militarization of schools following a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14 — attacked the “lying MSM” for not devoting “wall-to-wall coverage” to a story that didn’t “fit their anti-gun, anti-freedom narrative.”


NRA spokesman Dana Loesch tweeted out a story characterizing Great Mills High School shooting as one in which an “‘Armed School Resource Officer’ Took Down” an armed shooter, and NRA TV covered the violence as a breaking news story in which a resource officer “stops school attack.”


As ThinkProgress noted at the time, the NRA’s spin was way ahead of the facts. Following the shooting, the sheriff’s office released a statement merely noting that the shooting ended after the gunman shot a female student and the resource officer shot back — without clarifying whether the gunman shot himself.

According to the latest sheriff’s report, resource officer Gaskill did indeed act bravely, shooting at the gunman and striking him — something that police officers generally do less than 30 percent of the time. But Gaskill’s action couldn’t prevent the gunman from killing two people (including himself) and injuring a third.


The NRA’s recent push for more armed guards in schools comes even though the presence of an armed guard didn’t stop a gunman from killing 17 in Parkland with an AR-15. Trump has frequently touted the deterrent impact of armed guards.

In the wake of the sheriff’s report on Monday, Loesch shifted the narrative again, arguing that the armed guard still acted as a deterrent because he made the shooter more likely to shoot himself.

Loesch’s latest narrative is unsupported by the facts. There’s no indication in the sheriff’s office report or elsewhere that Rollins, who fired two shots in the school, was deterred by the resource officer.