On Wednesday, 16-year-old Alex Hribal rampaged through the hallways of Franklin Regional Senior High School in Murrysville, Pa. with two kitchen knives in hand and stabbed 21 of his fellow classmates and a security officer before being tackled to the ground by assistant principal Samuel King, according to Reuters. Though some have made the argument that this case negates the argument for gun control as there are clearly other lethal weapons, this conclusion fails to acknowledge that guns ultimately result in more casualties and that all cases of school violence highlight the need for increased security preparedness in schools.
Charged with four counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault and one count of bringing a weapon to school property, Hribal is currently being held without bail at the Westmoreland County Juvenile Detention Center in Greensburg, Pa., according to CNN. Meanwhile, several of his fellow students are currently hospitalized, with one in critical condition and three others having undergone emergency surgery.
One of Hribal’s victims, Brett Hurt, suffered from a bruised lung as a result of a stab wound to the back. According to CNN, he is expected to be released this week.
What happened to Hurt and his other classmates was an unthinkable act of violence that no one should be exposed to. But, unlike the victims of similar acts of violence in which a gun was used, Hurt and his classmates survived.
Mitchell College Associate Professor Herb Nieburg told ABC News that knife attacks are indicative of mental illness and that such attacks, though meant to inflict pain, are ultimately not as effective as guns are in causing harm. Unlike the deliberate actions involved with aiming and shooting a firearm, the impulsivity of stabbing is more erratic.
“This is what we call a disorganized homicide attempt,” Nieburg said. “Someone who uses a knife is extremely angry and very out of control. It indicates they really wanted to inflict pain — it’s not as quick as a gun.”
Though the majority of Hribal’s victims were treated and are expected to be fine, not all of the students were as lucky. Of the 21 total victims, four of them were in critical condition as of Wednesday, one of whom was “eviscerated” and might not survive, according to CNN. To completely rule out the validity of the need for gun control based on the multitude of lethal weapons, however, fails to address the danger that weapons like guns still pose on school campuses. Had Hribal brought a gun to campus, it is likely that he would have been able to harm more students at a higher level of severity than he was able to with knives alone. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that someone would have been able to tackle him to the ground had he been armed with a firearm.
“Obviously one gun is one too many and one knife is one too many,” National School Safety and Security Services President Ken Trump told U.S. News. “But it’s just one additional threat that schools need to be prepared to manage.”
No one can argue with the fact that knives, like other weapons, can be lethal when in the wrong hands. The severity of what happened at Franklin Regional Senior High School should be treated with the same seriousness and urgency as the multitude of other school attacks that have occurred. This tragedy cannot and should not be used as an argument by those against gun control simply because other tools can be dangerous as well. If anything, it should only further what the entire gun control conversation has been about — ensuring the safety of our children and educators.
Yasmeen Serhan is a sophomore majoring in international relations. She is also the Editorial Director of the Daily Trojan. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Fridays.