The Murders at the Umpqua Community College, in Newtown, Connecticut and elsewhere have reignited the contrived controversy over school shootings. I say contrived because, thankfully, and despite what the media and anti-gun activists would have us believe, mass shootings are not increasing in frequency; their numbers remains statistically insignificant. Progressives, despite incontrovertible evidence that their simplistic and freedom-destroying solutions—gun bans, “universal background checks,” closing the nonexistent “gun show loophole,” and “gun free” school zones—do not work, in fact they can’t possibly work, never cease supporting them. They patiently 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: attacks by active shooters, whether disaffected or deranged citizens—student or adult–or Islamic terrorists, foreign or domestic. This article and the next 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 children when a school attack—the worst-case scenario—occurs.
QUESTIONS, ANSWERS AND SOLUTIONS, PART I:
In the first two articles, I only mentioned 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 only 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 willing teachers and other school staff to carry concealed handguns.
This policy can be implemented at little or no cost to taxpayers, and mechanisms both legal and practical for its implementation are already in place.
Circa 2015, every state allows its citizens–at least on paper–some degree of concealed carry. Most as “shall issue” states; qualified citizens must be issued a license. Some states, such as California and Illinois, and cities such as Chicago and Washington DC make obtaining a concealed carry license all but impossible. Licenses are reserved for the politically well connected or the wealthy. The rest allow it subject to various records check, testing and licensing schemes.
However, six states–Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Vermont and Wyoming–allow any law abiding citizen not otherwise disqualified by mental illness or past criminal status––to carry a concealed handgun with no state testing or licensing. This is known as “constitutional carry.” Many of the residents of those states do obtain a license so that they can enjoy reciprocity with neighboring states.
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, in 2012, 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–one of the last unconstitutional hold-outs–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 only there does their life have value. 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.
Citizens, including teachers, may carry concealed weapons on school grounds in at least 18 states, subject to various restrictions. In Utah, more or less unrestricted carry has been the rule for many years, and as everywhere else, the horrors predicted for such carry just haven’t happened. Texas, for example, allows carry in schools with the written permission of school authorities, though relatively few Texas schools have been so fortunate, or have failed to publicize such a useful deterrent. In 2016, students and teachers will be able to carry concealed weapons on the campuses of Texas colleges. As always, all manner of horrors are predicted, and one professor retired as a result of the new law, but he was in the process of retiring anyway.
Universal experience with concealed carry on school grounds reveals that no one is endangered by a law-abiding concealed carry licensee, holder, and violent crime will commonly decrease on campus. It should be remembered, however, that public schools, and particularly 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, the Umpqua killer, or any other maniac intent on harming students, 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 the police can possibly arrive. 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, while they are waiting outdoors for a bus, 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. For people planning the mass murder of children and their own death by suicide, no lesser law is a deterrent.
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 when and where attacks occur 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, however, post-Ferguson and Baltimore, there is significant evidence that the police are becoming very, very cautious and reluctant to engage in potentially dangerous confrontations. Even courageous and diligent officers 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 eventually went to the police station 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, and every dime they ever made fending off 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–perhaps until recently–loved 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 procedure, 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 a given local law enforcement agencies is implementing them at all.
We are solely responsible for our safety and that of our families. 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 only about nine minutes from the beginning of the attack to arrive at the school, but much longer to enter the building. By the time they did, the killer had been long dead by his own hand and everyone he chose to kill was dead or dying. 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).
The answer to this question will always determine the number of teachers and students wounded and killed in a school attack: what are school personal prepared and able to do when and where an attack occurs?
The next installment of this series, to be posted next Monday, will pose and answer additional pertinent questions. I hope to see you there.