Zero-tolerance-gun-policies-at-schoolThe first five articles in this series are:

(1) School Attacks: Feeling Good or Saving Lives, Part 1 

(2) School Attacks: Feeling Good or Saving Lives, Part 2 

(3) School Attacks: Feeling Good or Saving Lives, Part 3

(4) School Attacks: Feeling Good or Saving Lives, Part 4 

(5) School Attacks: Feeling Good or Saving Lives, Part 5 

One More Question:

In researching this updated series, I ran across a number of naysayers whose arguments went more or less like this:

We can’t let teachers carry guns in school. They’ll be shooting students that are fighting or behaving badly.

Underlying this sort of inadequate thinking is the idea that there can be no possible reason why a teacher would want or need to shoot a student. Also implied is that teachers are too stupid and/or emotional to deal with such issues, and seeing any sort of criminal behavior by students, would be compelled to shoot them.

Coleen Ritzer

Coleen Ritzer

One wonders what Coleen Ritzer would have thought about that. In October of 2013, 24 year-old high school math teacher Ritzer was beaten by a 15-year-old student that followed her into a bathroom, and slashed her throat.  She was raped and her body discarded in a recycling bin. Her school, like most, prohibited arming teachers.

The point of carrying a concealed weapon is not that we know, or can guess with any degree of accuracy, when a deadly attack might occur, what type of person might commit it and what might motivate them. We carry because we have no idea when or where we might be attacked, when or where our lives might hang in the balance.

We do not carry a handgun because the only possible scenario is that an armed outsider might one day attack the school and try to shoot many people, and we just might be close enough to stop them if armed. We carry because deadly threats may occur at any time, wherever we are.

This kind of thinking suggests it might be legitimate for a teacher to use their concealed handgun to stop a stereotypical school attacker, but not to stop a student who suddenly pulls a knife and attacks because he is out of his mind over a lost girlfriend, on drugs, or just a sociopath.

One may use deadly force when one–or another–is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death, and the attacker has the means and opportunity to cause serious bodily harm or death, and is actually putting one in jeopardy. It is also important that the person being attacked is innocent, that they have not provoked or participated in the attack–it’s not a case of mutual combat–and that the force used to stop the attack is proportional to the force used in the attack. One doesn’t shoot someone that is threatening to throw an empty milk carton, but someone armed with a gun, and shooting at others must be–and can be–legally and immediately stopped.

A related misconception is that children are harmless. While it would certainly be far more difficult to justify shooting a 6 year-old than a 15 year-old, if that 6 year-old had a gun and appeared able to point it and pull the trigger, they are no less a threat than the 15 year-old. Kids can and do seriously injure, even kill others, including teachers, as I noted in a recent article: The Ferguson Effect: They’re Just Harmless Widdle Kiddies. 

Obviously, no rational human being would want to harm a student in their care, but sometimes, thankfully rarely, it is necessary. In the last installment of this series, I recounted that I had, last year, to stop and restrain a student that was ruthlessly beating a fellow teacher. I was able to do it without hurting him, but most people don’t have those skills.

As I’ve previously noted, teachers carrying concealed handguns are not police officers. They are no different than any citizen carrying concealed. They are not in any way obligated to engage in law enforcement activities, and obviously, should not. Unless and until a deadly force situation occurs, no one need ever know they are carrying a handgun. For most teachers, this means no one will ever know.

The ultimate point is that teachers should carry concealed handguns not because they work in schools, but because they are around other human beings, just as they are everywhere outside their school. Unless we are willing to declare, in law, that teachers are to be denied the right to self-defense because they have chosen to be teachers, and that their students are likewise denied that protection because they are school children, there can be no legitimate reason to disarm teachers, rendering them and their charges at risk in worst case scenarios.

THE PURDUE STUDY:

Several years ago I corresponded with Dr. J. Eric Dietz, who, with the help of three co-author/students, was working on a study on how to mitigate active shooter attacks. What security measures, the study sought to answer, were effective in stopping attacks, or at least, in minimizing casualties? Dr. Dietz wrote that the study was not yet complete, but let me know when it was. A download is available here. 

Those wishing to be informed about the methodology of the study should download it. It is only 25 pages long and very readable, even for the scientific layman. Basically, the study used computer modeling based on data from actual school attacks to determine which of four scenarios would be most effective:

Scenario 1: A normal school. No access control or security present, no one carrying handguns, concealed or otherwise.

Scenario 2: A school where 5%-10% of the staff are carrying concealed handguns.

Scenario 3: A school with an assigned school resource officer–an armed police officer.

Scenario 4: A school with a school resource officer and 5-10% of the school staff carrying concealed handguns.

The study obviously controls for the common variables and influencing factors, and I have been unable to find very little media coverage or scientific criticism of the study. Dr. Dietz was interviewed for a brief, local news article: 

For the past year, Dietz and his students have used data from real-life events including the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary tragedies to analyze further. Research shows it takes, on average, 12 minutes, for police to respond to a school shooting in the United States.

Dietz said it’s the reason why every second counts.

They found adding one armed school resource office in school could reduce response times by 80-percent. Casualties dropped by nearly 70-percent.

Researchers also determined arming up to 10-percent of a school’s teachers and faculty could decrease casualties by 10-percent.

‘We have to put everything on the table and try to get emotion out,’ said Dietz. ‘We’re not looking to arm schools and we’re not trying to create gun fire fights in schools. We’re just looking at it with a police and science point-of-view and how we can benefit children in schools.

Imagine that. I suspect the very absence of criticism is a sign that anti-gun, anti-liberty proponents do not want to give the study any publicity. For example, when the Clinton Administration did a study on the defensive use of guns in the hope of finding justification for gun bans, they were horrified to find Americans use guns to stop crimes up to 1.5 million times a year. They did everything they could to disown and bury the study.

The Purdue study credits those that support “run and hide” drills, and other security measures previously mentioned in this series, but notes that their methods do not assess actual data from past attacks, nor do they serve to stop attackers. In the contemporary school security business, Purdue’s is very much an unusual approach. It shouldn’t be. Unless any security program can actively deter attacks, and when they occur, minimize casualties and stop the attacker(s), of what value is it? Are we truly willing to say “well, the Security Inc. plan can’t actually stop an attacker, and lots of people will die before the police can respond, but we’re willing to pay a great deal of taxpayer money and accept a reasonable number of casualties to give the appearance of security?” That’s what we’re currently doing in most American schools.

The study notes:

In 2012 there were an estimated 1,214,462 violent crimes nationwide. This includes all violent crime, including those in which firearms were used. This represents a decrease of over 12.9% from the 2008 level, a 15.4% decrease from the 2011 to 2007 level, and a 15.5% decrease from the 2011 to 2002 level10. At the same time firearms ownership increased sharply, by over 61%, or over 118 million between 2004 and 201211. Additionally, during the timeframe of 1999-2000, a full 58% of firearms related deaths were labeled as suicide, 38% as homicides and 3% ruled unintentional death by firearm. [skip]

The evidence of growing firearm popularity and growing strength in both numbers, statistics relating to crime and usage, and laws allowing their use create an undeniable data set that suggests that increased firearms ownership and access does not contribute to increased crime, anecdotally, it statistically results in a reduction.

The study observes that virtually all mass shootings take place in “gun free” zones, where large numbers of people are present, and in confined areas. To those that have been paying attention to this issue, this should not be surprising. Deitz’s discovery that it takes the police an average of 12 minutes to respond to these attacks is, if anything, generous. Sandy Hook is an excellent example. It took school personal about five minutes to make a call to the police after the attack began. The first officer arrived within about four minutes, but no officer was actually able to enter the building until nearly 10 minutes after that first officer arrived, which was nearly 20 minutes after the attack actually began. In any school attack, there will be several distinct early phases (these are my observations, not those of the study):

(1) Attack/Disbelief: The attack begins, but it takes time for school personnel to understand what is happening. In parts of the school only slightly distant from the immediate action, most people will remain entirely unaware of the attack. There is virtually never an immediate call to the police at the moment of an attack.

(2) Call/Organization: It will take time, usually several minutes at the least, for someone on site to make a call, for the police dispatcher to answer, assimilate the information, make a coherent radio call to officers, and continue to take information. At Sandy Hook, the first two steps took more than five minutes.

(3) Initial Response: This will depend entirely on how many officers are available, how far they are from the school, traffic patterns, weather conditions, and the quality and accuracy of the information the officers are receiving from their dispatcher. Often, that information is at least partially incorrect and out of date. A gunman may be reported at the front doors of a school, but he was actually there four minutes ago when the call was made, or the call was garbled and he was actually at the back door. Another important factor is the responding officer’s almost certain total lack of knowledge of the layout of the school. At Sandy Hook, this took four minutes.

(4) Organization At The Scene: Officers are now trained to immediately enter, find and assault any shooters, but not every officer everywhere, and at Sandy Hook, the first officers were confronted by people outside the school that could have been involved in the shooting. They had to control and identify them before they could enter the building. This phase took ten minutes.

(5) Entry And Search: Just entering a school accomplishes little. Officers still have to find the attackers, who could be anywhere, avoid being shot themselves, and stop the attackers. Had the attacker not killed himself at least five minute earlier, this would have taken an additional two minutes or more.

All of this takes time, precious time, and while all of this is going on, people are dying. The study notes:

Multiple examples of active shooter incidents and the response time for law enforcement can conclusively deduce that the longer an event transpires, the more casualties will be incurred. Additionally, soft targets such as schools or other mass gatherings of people otherwise unable to defend themselves make a more enticing target. Additionally, the ability for first responders to arrive, organize, and begin addressing the issue almost always results in reacting to the damage already done.

This is unquestionably true, but is seldom stated in the media. What, then, can be done?

The increased likelihood of active shooter events has proven that even in areas with robust police and military presence, the ability for active shooters to inflict mass damage quickly is not preventable with external law enforcement or responders that must be called to the scene. This implies that readily available deterrents and responders, in the form of concealed carry personnel on scene have a greater ability to end an active shooter situation sooner than waiting for law enforcement to arrive. Much of this discussion focuses on select singular events. The situation becomes much more complicated when law enforcement officers are forced to deal with multiple shooters or multiple locations. As Frazzano, 2010 stated, ‘Though smaller jurisdictions might have special tactics law enforcement squads, those squads will not likely be able to deal with active shooter scenarios that include multiple shooters in multiple locations with their own-source resources.

So what works? Which of the scenarios were most effective in actually minimizing casualties?

credit: the purdue study

credit: the purdue study

As seen in Figure 18, the number of casualties in all other scenarios is less than that of the basic scenario. The comparison between having a resource officer and having teachers and staff with concealed weapons shows that a resource officer is able to decrease casualties and response time more effectively due to the resource officer being able to maneuver towards the threat while the teachers and staff remain static. The effectiveness is most improved, however, when both a resource officer and concealed carry personnel are present. Not surprisingly, increasing the percentage of concealed carry personnel improved the response time and decreased the number of casualties.

Since the basic scenario showed the highest number of casualties, the other scenarios should all be considered successful in minimizing the negative effect of active shooter phenomena. Having a resource officer on duty reduced casualties by 66.4% and response time by 59.5%. Having 5% of personnel carry a concealed weapon reduced casualties by 6.8% and response time by 5.4%. Increasing the percentage of personnel with concealed carry to 10% reduced casualties by a total of 23.2% and response time by 16.8%. Combining 5% concealed carry personnel with a resource officer reduced casualties by 68.9% and response time by 59.7%. The final and most successful scenario of 10% concealed carry personnel with a resource officer reduced casualties by 70.2% and response time by 62.7%.

None of this should be surprising to those open to logic and common sense. Active shooters in schools may be most effectively stopped, and casualties most effectively reduced, when there are more armed teachers and staff and a school resource officer.  They compliment, not replace each other.  Based on my experience as a police officer and educator, I believe the models give too much weight to a single school resource officer.  If that officer is off campus when an attack begins, they will likely have no effect at all, and in terms of ability, they may be no more effective than many teachers.  As I’ve also noted in this series, most schools have no full time resource officer, nor will they.  It’s just too expensive, and there is not nearly enough to do to keep an officer busy full time. Sharing an officer among even two schools means they cannot be present at least 50% of the time in either school, and present only during normal school hours in any case.  The most cost-effective means of saving lives is arming as many willing teachers and staff as possible, and publicizing that fact without revealing details.

The Purdue study does not measure the deterrent effect of armed staff–the presence of armed staff being well publicized–however, the reality that such attacks take place almost exclusively in gun free zones powerfully suggests that such places encourage attacks, and places where potential victims may be armed deter them.

In the next installment of this series, which I’ll post next Tuesday, I’ll explain the federal law related to gun-free school zones, and ask and answer several pertinent questions.  It is my hope that America won’t have to suffer through a Beslan-like attack–or many such attacks; Newtown was more than enough–in elementary schools before we implement the only effective means of stopping those who would harm our children.  Never has the danger been greater, yet never has the possibility for effective change been greater–at least until–and if–Hillary Clinton is elected.

I hope to see you next week.

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