The Murders in Newtown, Connecticut have reignited the contrived controversy over school shootings. I say contrived because Progressives, despite incontrovertible evidence that their simplistic and freedom-destroying “solutions”—gun bans and “gun free” school zones—do not work, in fact they can’t possibly work, never cease supporting them. They wait and renew their demands whenever a mass murder occurs, hoping to push over-reaching and ineffective legislation through the Congress while people are not thinking clearly.
On second thought, such legislation is ineffective only in that it will do nothing at all to prevent school shootings, and even less to stop the killers that will murder the innocent in the future. Such legislation is effective in limiting and hampering American’s right to self defense, and in putting even more power in the hands of Federal politicians and bureaucrats protected by armed security, but desperate to deny the same protection to those they obviously believe they rule.
This, the third installment of the series, deals with the actual issues involved.
The first two installments of this series (available here and here) outlined an unprecedented, dangerous and very real issue facing American schools today: the likelihood of attacks by active shooters, whether disaffected or deranged citizens—student or adult–or Islamic terrorists, foreign or domestic. This article will deal primarily with ways with which the problem may be successfully dealt, and with commonly raised objections to the only truly effective way to protect our children when a school attack—the worst case scenario—occurs.
QUESTIONS, ANSWERS AND SOLUTIONS, PART I:
In the first two articles, I essentially hinted at the primary solution at the heart of this series in the hope that even those who might reflexively oppose it would give it—and related points—a fair hearing. There is one simple update in school policy that can change American schools, as has been the case in Israel, from soft to hard–or at the very least harder–targets: allow teachers and other school staff to carry concealed handguns.
This policy can be implemented at little or no cost to schools, and mechanisms both legal and practical for its implementation are already in place. The last state to deny its citizens even the pretense of being able to carry a concealed weapon—Illinois—has been court ordered to write a law allowing concealed carry. Wisconsin joined the rest of America in the last year. The rest allow it subject to records checks, testing and licensing. However, several states allow any law abiding citizen who is not otherwise disqualified by mental illness or past criminal status–Wyoming is the most recent–to carry a concealed handgun with no state testing or licensing. These laws have been a uniform success in that every state that has passed a shall-issue concealed carry law has seen reductions in violent crime, mass shootings, and no corresponding increase in shooting incidents. The kinds of wild west shootouts anti-gun activists predicted would break out at the slightest provocation have simply failed to materialize.
And in a logical progression from the Supreme Court’s 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision (which affirmed that the Second Amendment does speak of a fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms), and its 2010 McDonald v. Chicago decision (which incorporated that right to the states), Maryland Federal Judge Benson Everett Legg recently ruled in the case of Woollard v. Sheridan that the right to keep and bear arms is not limited to the home. Judge Legg wrote:
The Court finds that the right to bear arms is not limited to the home.
In addition to self-defense, the (Second Amendment) right was also understood to allow for militia membership and hunting. To secure these rights, the Second Amendment’s protections must extend beyond the home: neither hunting nor militia training is a household activity, and ‘self-defense has to take place wherever [a] person happens to be.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals took the same approach in ordering Illinois to respect the rights of its citizens. This is a logical progression in that the Supreme Court in Heller noted that the basis for the Second Amendment was the natural, unalienable right of self-defense. If self-defense applies only within the home or on one’s property, then their life is of value only within the home or on their property. They have no right—only a state defined, granted and rescinded privilege–to protect it elsewhere. At the same time, the Court noted that states retain a compelling governmental interest in prohibiting weapons to convicted felons, the mentally ill, and in certain places, though the exact limits of this interest remain unclear.
For reasons having little to do with rational thought, and less to do with protecting the lives of children, schools have traditionally been thought to be such places.
Those licensed to carry concealed weapons have been, unsurprisingly, uncommonly law abiding, and only a tiny percentage (virtually everywhere much less than a single percent) have had their licenses suspended, most for technical violations of the law such as unintentionally carrying a handgun into a prohibited area. Concealed carry has been so universally successful and beneficial that no repeal legislation has been seriously considered, let alone passed in any state that has adopted it. Circa Fall, 2012, concealed carry is allowed on school grounds only in Utah and Colorado and under some circumstances, Texas, but many additional states are debating the issue.
In fact, in Early March, 2012, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Colorado’s law allowing concealed carry on college campuses did apply to the State Board of Regents, allowing those otherwise qualified for concealed carry permits to carry their weapons on campuses throughout Colorado. Colorado’s experience has mirrored that of every other state allowing concealed carry in an educational setting: no one is endangered by a concealed carry license holder, and violent crime will commonly decrease on campus. It should be remembered, however, that colleges are notoriously reluctant to admit that violent crime occurs on their campuses at all, such admissions tending to shatter certain progressive articles of faith and notions of “safety” based on progressive narratives and wishes rather than rational planning and policy.
Q: SCHOOLS ARE GUN-FREE ZONES. WON’T GUNS MAKE SCHOOLS MORE DANGEROUS?
Gun free zones? Yes, but only for those that obey the law, and are, as a consequence, no threat. The fact that schools are “gun free zones” did not stop the Columbine killers, the Newtown killer or any other maniac intent on harming school children, nor will it stop those intent on harm in the future. Such laws ensure only that schools are easy targets. In truth, they are victim disarmament zones, special preserves where shooters can be assured that they will have ample time to kill before any police response can be organized. A gun-free zone sign in front of a school provides a sense of security, but it is false security of the cruelest kind. That kind of illusory security is comforting indeed to killers who may be certain that their victims will be unarmed and in a very poor position to resist them.
As I noted in the first article of this series, Larry Banaszak, Chief of Police of Otterbein University, provides seminars to schools teaching how to react to an active shooter. If the first two tactics—running and hiding—fail, he adds a third:
The third survival tactic is the most difficult but none-the-less necessary. A shooter enters the classroom and starts shooting at people. Remember, there is nowhere to run or hide.
The strategy begins with the first person who notices the shooter and yells “GUN!” Everyone in the room then throws whatever is available, as hard as they can, at the shooter’s face causing him to flinch, and preventing him from taking aim. Then what’s known as the “throw and go” tactic is implemented.
Upon throwing items at the shooter, the occupants rush to and swarm the shooter. The first few people are taught to attack and move the shooter’s gun hand and gun toward the ground.
Banaszak’s third strategy is, in fact, much more aggressive than most, who essentially recommend only running, hiding and trying to remain behind locked doors, doors easily breached. And what happens if a killer attacks school children in a sports stadium, waiting outdoors for busses, or on a playground? Behind which doors will children hide then? Where will they run?
What rational parent would not prefer that their child never have to engage in a last-ditch mass rush against an armed, murderous gunman?
Very few people are comfortable with the idea of prominently posting a sign in front of their home advertising the fact that they are unarmed. Yet some are somehow comforted to see essentially the same sign in front of their children’s school. Signs and laws confer no protection. They suggest and provide for only the possibility of punishment after a violation of the law restricting guns on school property. Any such punishment would surely not be a deterrent–as it has never been–to killers planning mass murder and their own deaths.
The monsters threatening our children don’t play by American criminal justice system rules. Boldly standing ready to prosecute school murderers who commonly kill themselves during their attacks for gun law violations is an exercise in futility and will be no comfort to surviving family members. Only the affirmative acts of those prepared to effectively defend themselves and innocent school children offer real protection.
Gun Free zones are indeed dangerous, but only to those forced to be disarmed within their boundaries.
Q: WE PAY THE POLICE TO PROTECT US. SHOULDN’T WE LEAVE IT TO PROFESSIONALS?
It’s true that police officers love to catch really bad guys, but the police have no duty to protect any individual citizen. On June 27, 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Castle Rock v. Gonzales. In this case, the estranged husband of Gonzales defied a restraining order and kidnapped their three daughters, ages 7-10. Over many hours, the police were repeatedly called, even begged to act. Mrs. Gonzales even went to the police station in person and pled with them, but they did nothing. Not long after her last, personal appeal for their help, Gonzales’ husband committed suicide by cop by firing on the police station. Shortly thereafter, his three daughters were found dead in his nearby pickup. He murdered them before attacking the police station.
The court affirmed decades of lower court precedence in holding that the police have a duty only to deter and investigate crime for the public at large but not for any individual; the police could not be held liable even though they did nothing to assist Gonzales despite her repeated, obviously valid and pitiful pleas for help.
This might seem outrageous, but it is rational and necessary. Most people would be amazed, even shocked, to learn how few officers are patrolling their community at any time of the night or day. It is impossible for the police to guarantee protection to any individual, and if they could be successfully sued for failing to provide such protection, what city could possibly afford a police force? Who would become a police officer knowing that they’d spend every minute off duty fending off multiple lawsuits?
Police agencies are always understaffed. As a consequence, they staff their shifts with the most officers when most are required: evenings in general and Friday and Saturday nights in particular. Police agencies virtually always have the fewest officers working during weekday shifts when school is in session.
Indeed, the police love to catch bad guys in the act, and would love nothing more than to stop school shooters, but the police are primarily reactive rather than proactive. There aren’t many of them, and they’re not well prepared to deal–in terms of weapons, training or procedures–with actual terrorism which employs military methods, weapons, tactics and objectives. By the time a police officer is notified of a school shooting, students and staff will already be wounded and dead and more will die as they rush to the school. It is true that more police agencies are changing their response models and training regarding school shootings, but such things take many years to fully implement–if your local law enforcement agencies are implementing them at all. We are all responsible for our own–and our families’–personal safety. We always have been.
No matter how well trained and prepared responding police officers might be, the immutable issues that matter are time and distance. The police in Newtown, Connecticut took 20 minutes to respond, but even if they had been there within five minutes, they would have had no role in stopping the attack. Unless officers are present–within easy handgun range of the shooters–when an attack begins, many children and teachers will die before they can arrive and more will die before they can find the shooter(s).
Q: WHAT ABOUT SCHOOL LIAISON OFFICERS?
Some schools have armed police officers on their campuses during school hours, more have part time officers, but most have none. School liaison officers are expensive; they are of little use to a day to day patrol force, yet their salary must come, in part or whole, out of a police budget. Even if a school has an assigned liaison officer—and this is true primarily for large high schools–the odds that the officer will be on campus when an attack occurs, or will be in the part of the building necessary to take immediate and effective action are small. The duties of these officers do not include continuously monitoring entryways. In addition, they cannot be at most extra- curricular activities.
Many schools have the population of small towns, and modern schools are like mazes to those who don’t work in them daily. Those most likely to know who doesn’t belong on a campus and what is happening on a moment-by-moment basis are those who work there–the teachers. They are also present at each and every activity of a school, whether during the normally scheduled school day, or at extra-curricular activities.
As I noted in an article about the NRA’s recent proposal to put police officers in every school, while it would be a good thing, it’s simply not possible. There are too many schools (more than 100,000), too few police officers, and for the brokest nation in the history of the world, irrational to consider. It’s impractical, unnecessary, and we cannot afford it. And it would not address every threat, particularly that of multiple attackers.
Time is no longer on the side of the good guys. When an active shooter or shooters enter a school, if they are not engaged and stopped immediately, the only factor determining the eventual death toll will be their good will or lack of marksmanship. Many schools do not have two-way intercom systems, so a teacher seeing an armed attacker in a hallway may have no way–other than their own cell phone, which may or may not work inside the school–to notify the office, warn other teachers, or to call the police short of running down that same hallway to do it in person.
Q: TEACHERS CARRYING GUNS?
One significant reason that violent crime has uniformly declined in right to carry states is that even though only a small fraction of the population carries a concealed weapon, the likelihood is high that some honest citizen will be carrying a handgun virtually anywhere at any time. Knowing this, criminals can never know who will be armed and must assume that everyone might be. Therefore though only a small portion of the honest population carry concealed weapons (8 million+ at present), they provide a protective, deterrent effect for the general public far out of proportion to their numbers. Criminals fear the guns of armed citizens far more than those of the police. The police are predictable and criminals are used to dealing with them, but citizens just might choose to shoot them out of anger. It is well known indeed that criminals take pains to avoid armed citizens.
What is the value of a teacher’s life? If they have an inalienable right to self defense, a right the state does not confer and may not take away, how is it they lose that right when they cross a school property line? How can it be that a teacher has the right to protect their life and the lives of their own children everywhere but at school? Do school property boundaries truly determine the value of the lives of teachers and school children? At present, in most places, they do.
Those already licensed for concealed carry provide a ready pool for schools. Many people assume that the police are all expert shots. Not so. Many police officers are required to qualify with their firearms only once a year. The courses of fire are commonly not demanding and passing scores generous. Many officers fire their weapons only on those occasions (and clean them less often).
Shooting skills can be learned by virtually anyone, and a great many citizens exceed the police in shooting skill. This is not to denigrate the police in any way–they do a difficult job well–but putting on a police uniform does not endow the wearer with magical shooting powers beyond the reach of citizens. Most teachers are women, and firearms teachers know that women often make the best students, commonly lacking the preconceptions and ingrained bad habits present in many men. I suspect that many people around the nation might be surprised to discover how many teachers–male and female–are quite competent with firearms, and how many routinely carry concealed weapons.
Publicizing that teachers are allowed to carry, suggesting that they are carrying, but taking pains to ensure that no one knows who or how many are armed in any given school, will confer upon all teachers, students and schools the benefit of making every school a harder target. No one should be required to carry a firearm against their will. Even if one school in a district has no one on campus carrying a concealed weapon, as long as the public doesn’t know that but reasonably believes that some are, the school retains the deterrent effect of appearing to be a harder target. In such matters, we need all the deterrent we can get.
If you were planning a school attack and knew that the Smallville School District allowed concealed carry on school property, even encouraged it, but the Pleasantville School district next door did not, in which school district would you be more likely to attack? Terrorists are deterred only when they believe that their mission might be thwarted, which tends to cause them to shift to a softer target. At the moment, virtually every American elementary and secondary school is a soft target.
Q: THE POLICE ARE HIGHLY TRAINED. TEACHERS CAN’T HAVE THAT SAME LEVEL OF TRAINING. WON’T THEY DO WORSE THAN POLICE OFFICERS?
Remember above all that in virtually every school shooting, the police have had no active role in stopping the shooter(s) who usually commits suicide before they are in a position to even see, let alone stop, him. Police officers are indeed extensively trained, but in a wide variety of knowledge and skills necessary for the many tasks their jobs require. The skills they or anyone needs to stop a school attacker are few, specific, and do not require years of study and lengthy on the job application of skills and experience to learn and master.
Teachers are no different than anyone else licensed to carry a concealed weapon. In virtually every state, they must learn the law relating to the use of deadly force—these issues are exactly the same for police officers–and demonstrate proficiency with their handgun. It would be wise for school districts to provide tactical training, but this is not absolutely necessary, nor is it difficult or expensive to do or to learn.
Some argue that teachers must focus on teaching and because of this, cannot possibly be aware of their surroundings or effectively protect themselves or others. This assertion is mistaken on many levels. Anyone can learn to be more aware of their surroundings, to develop “situational awareness.” And if a teacher carrying a concealed weapon never uses it, as will be the case for all but a few, their attention to their duties is unchanged. If they must use it to repel a school attack, their attention will be distracted from teaching for only a few minutes, a distraction I suspect most teachers, students and parents would welcome.
Police officers, because of the very nature of their jobs, make mistakes in shooting far more often than citizens. They are required to rush into ambiguous situations and often aren’t sure who is innocent and who is a threat. The Newtown killings provide a good example.
From what is currently known, the killer—who would want his name mentioned—was refused entry to the school. The staff refused to open the remote controlled entry door, so he shot his way through the door within seconds. In that situation, there would have been no confusion about what was happening. There would have been no question that the killer had deadly intent and that anyone near him was in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. Who could doubt what he intended to do if he got into the school? Armed staff could have shot him while he was distracted and still trying to break into the school though that process took only seconds, and no one need have been injured. No highly advanced and technical skills would be needed, only the ability to shoot straight, and at that point in the attack, presumably when no students or other innocents were in danger, it would matter little if the staff members firing on the shooter missed a few rounds. Even those rounds might have served to cause the shooter to turn tail and run.
Remember too that in elementary schools, most teachers, principals and support staff are female. They tend to lack the size, strength, training and aggressiveness to incapacitate an attacker hand to hand. Even if a principal is a world-class martial artist, this is meaningless unless they can get close enough to an armed attacker without being shot, and even then, their chances aren’t good. In such circumstances, time and distance are the determining factors, and schools are full of long, open hallways with no cover for the unarmed defender.
But a woman with a handgun is fully as dangerous to a murderer as a man at the distances likely in school attacks. When my wife and I were last required to qualify with our handguns, I fired a perfect score, and she, using precisely the same make and model of handgun, fired only a single point less, beating every other man present by a substantial margin. In school attacks, firearms are truly equalizers and life savers, particularly for female teachers.
Of course, shooting stationary paper targets is different than shooting at human beings intent on taking one’s life. However, the same dynamics apply to attacker and those being attacked. Arguing against the means of protecting lives because it might be difficult is missing the point in a rather large and obvious way.
Are we truly prepared to say that when an armed madman breaks through school doors and begins shooting, women shouldn’t have the means to protect their lives because they have chosen education as a profession? That’s the very real and deadly effect of current policy.
On January 02, 2013 I’ll post the fourth article in this series, which continues to address the issues involved in actually saving lives, rather than merely feeling safe or sending messages about what we want the public to believe regardless of reality.