Last month, police were present at a New Jersey high school football playoff game — Pleasantville vs. Camden. There were also teachers, administrators, coaches, parents and maybe 200 youngsters. Despite the added security, tragedy still struck.

School events provide a supposed “safe” zone for children because they’re gun-free zones. Law-abiding, responsibly armed Americans must by law leave firearms at home or locked in their cars.

So why has Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner charged Alvin Wyatt, 31, with three counts of attempted murder? Why have five others also been charged in the shooting incident at the football game that sent three people to the emergency room? (Michael Mack, 27; Tyrell Dorn, 28; Shahid Dixon, 27; Ibn Abdullah, 27; and Vance Golden, 26, were charged with unlawful possession.)

The Response

“As soon as I heard the gun shots, all my brothers — all my teammates — were crying, and they just started running,” said Pleasantville High School defensive lineman Fernando Flores-Zelaya. “It’s horrible, man. Worst feeling I ever felt in my entire life.”

Former Pleasantville athletic director Derek Carrington and his brother helped fans and players who were rushing for safety. “We must have helped 15 to 20 people get over the fence. One woman asked me to ‘please help her son.’ I just can’t believe something like this happened.”

Curiously, no students were involved in the melee, said prosecutor Tyner: “The venue simply presented an opportunity for criminals to pursue their own form of petty vengeance against one another. We just saw everybody from the crowd running.”

Pleasantville wide receiver Keon Henry said, “Coach was telling us ‘get down,’ but we didn’t want to get down. We wanted to get somewhere safe, inside the school. So we all ran up there.”

“It just don’t make sense at a game,” Pleasantville linebacker Ernest Howard, Jr. wrote on Twitter.

‘It Just Don’t Make Sense’

How do we handle this situation? We start before the game by instructing our children in life values, the frequently ridiculed and imperfect American ideals of fair play and trustworthiness.

But here are a few other ideas as well:

  • Scope out the exits.
  • Study the fence for weaknesses — places you might either go through or over with little difficulty.
  • Don’t sit on rickety open bleachers because one needs to be careful when navigating them at the best of times. In an emergency, they’re a trap.
  • Be attentive to the people sitting around you because outside venues at night attract more than their fair share of trouble.

This shooting wasn’t caused by a disturbed or bullied student. An immature adult with a grudge and a quick temper pulled a gun. A man with no emotional self-control or regard for the law got angry. None of the six men charged were legally permitted to possess firearms. Where did their guns come from? How quickly will they end up back on the streets?

Preparation for this type of incident in a gun-free zone could make the difference between going home safely and a trip to the morgue. I’m not suggesting that responsibly armed Americans ignore a legal gun-free sign, but people like Wyatt and Abdullah disregard such concepts.

Mr. Carrington expressed amazement that something like this could happen, but don’t be amazed. America is filled with people who have no regard for the law, and the incident in New Jersey was simply a sign of things to come.

About Rick Sapp

After his stint in the U.S. Army, including time as an infantry platoon leader and working with West German KRIPO during the 1968 Soviet invasion, Rick Sapp returned home to earn a Ph.D. in social anthropology. Following his education from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Catholic University of America and the University of Florida, he moved to France for a year. Rick worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before turning to journalism and freelance writing, authoring more than 50 books for a variety of publishers.