Evil exists. Evil is not an inanimate object. It is not a gun, not even an AR-15 or similar semi automatic rifle (there is no such thing as an “assault weapon”). It cannot be deterred, banished or eliminated by a policy or law. It has always been with us, and until the Almighty locks it away, always will be.
Yesterday, February 14, 2018, evil manifested most obviously at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, at about 2:30 PM local time. There is, as is usual with such cases, much we do not know about this incident, but in many respects, it is like every other school shooting. The killer, a 19 year-old former student of the school who would want his name mentioned here, is unharmed and in police custody, which is unusual. Most such killers either commit suicide, or hope to commit suicide by cop. He is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Here’s what we know, via Fox News:
Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland thought they were having another fire drill when they heard shots fired. ****— equipped with a gas mask, smoke grenades and multiple magazines of ammunition — fired his AR-15 rifle as students and faculty barricaded themselves in classrooms. Other people ran into the streets as they heard ‘pop, pop, pop’ in the background.
Noah Parness, 17, told the Associated Press the fire alarm went off for the second time in the day at around 2:30 p.m. Parness said students were calmly filing out of the school when he suddenly heard several gunshots.
‘Everyone was kind of just standing there calm, and then we saw a bunch of teachers running down the stairway, and then everybody shifted and broke into a sprint,’ Parness said. ‘I hopped a fence.’ [skip]
Aaron Feis, a beloved football coach at the high school, was the first of the 17 people killed to be identified. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football team posted on Twitter that Feis ‘shielded students from the shooter’ when he was struck with a bullet.
‘He was our Assistant Football Coach and security guard. He selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot. He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories,’ the tweet said.
Of the 17 people killed, 12 of them died in the school, two were killed outside and another was pronounced dead on the street. Two people died in the hospital, police said. Another 15 people were taken to the hospital.
Feis, who by all accounts behaved heroically, was an unarmed security guard, reduced to using his body to absorb bullets. More on this later.
The killer was adopted, but his adoptive father died years ago, and his mother died only a few months ago from pneumonia. The killer was expelled from school last year after getting into a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend. He was reportedly abusive toward her. He was living with the family of a friend. There is evidence his potentially dangerous behaviors, and perhaps even intentions, were widely known, and he was banned from entering the campus with a backpack(?!). A Youtube comment by the killer a few months old that was, to say the least, suggestive, was reported to the FBI.
An Instagram page apparently belonging to **** showed pictures of guns and knives. [Sheriff Scott] Israel said some of ****’s social media posts were ‘very, very disturbing.
The killer reportedly posted photos of animals he killed and potentially mutilated, which is a recognized sign of a potentially homicidal personality. He legally purchased his rifle.
The usual cries for gun bans were loud and immediate: Republicans have blood on their hands; the NRA has blood on its hands; all AR-15s must be banned; Republicans want to kill children, etc. As is common after such manifestations of evil, there is a compulsion to “do something,” anything that will prevent similar future abominations. There must be something, some law, some policy, some virtue signal that will change everything…
Even people who should know better were arguing for impossible, ineffective measures. Sean Hannity was stuck on a half-measure: put retired law enforcement and military people—armed–in every school in the nation. This is similar to the NRA’s post-Sandy Hook proposal to put armed security guards in every school. Hannity also suggested metal detectors and only a few entrance/exit doors. A Hannity guest, a former FBI Agent, if memory serves, even suggested establishing a federal agency to put federal security guards in every school. As we all know, nothing is more efficient and effective than federalization. Let us, briefly, consider these suggestions, in their own way, common and oft proposed following school attacks.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is a 9-12 school of some 3200 students. It features an enormous three-story classroom building and many additional buildings on a sprawling campus. There are many high schools throughout the nation larger than 2000 students, and as such, they are essentially small towns, and a horror show for responding police officers, who have no idea of the interior layout of the many buildings on their campuses. By all accounts, the police response was relatively rapid. No numbers have been mentioned, but a rapid police response is usually something on the order of five minutes—for the first, single officer to arrive. Keep in mind that means the first officer arrived some five minutes after the police received a call, and after the dispatchers were able to understand what was happening and send a radio call. By this time, the shooting had been going on for some time, and would continue for some time after the call was made. In this case, as is virtually always true, the police had no active role in stopping the shooter. The killer chose to stop shooting on his timetable, and apparently after abandoning his rifle, strolled out of the building with fleeing students. He was captured some two miles away.
Contemporary school “safety” protocol consists almost entirely of
“run, hide, barricade.” By the simple expedient of pulling a fire alarm, the killer completely defeated that supposed “safety” protocol. This is a trick I’ve avoiding mentioned until now, not wanting to give killers ideas, but it’s out of the bag, and copycatting can be expected. In addition, one student described what happened as the killer shot out the window of her locked classroom door, poked the barrel through the window, and shot four students cowering, supposedly out of sight. As I’ve often written, locked doors work only as long as a shooter isn’t willing to take the time—mere seconds—to breach them. Kids hiding, closely clustered together in a confined space, are easy targets.
Metal detectors and a few entrance/exit doors sound like a great idea, but are entirely impractical. This works at a courthouse or federal building when only a few people at a time need to enter, but at a school of 3200, that would only cause huge lines of students waiting to enter, lining them up perfectly for gunmen, and hopelessly disrupting any school schedule. Not only are schools not designed for this, fire codes would prevent it. But even if it were possible, multiple, armed personnel would be required to man the detectors, and to check out any false positive. Unarmed personnel would be little more than speedbumps to an armed killer.
And this is the problem with armed security personnel: money. School districts, unlike some colleges, do not have multimillion-dollar endowments. Scraping together the money to hire a single additional teacher is like pulling teeth. Mrs. Manor and I spend up to $2000.00 a year for supplies the school district does not have, for our teaching and students. Some schools have a single school resource/liaison officer, but most do not. Such people are police officers, assigned by their agencies, their salaries paid, at least in part, by their school districts. They’re normally assigned only to larger schools: high schools and occasionally, middle schools. Many are shared by multiple schools, dropping by elementary schools only a single day per week, or even less often. A single, armed officer is better than nothing, but the chance they’ll be present, when and where an attack happens, is slight. A smart shooter can easily be certain where the single officer is and attack elsewhere.
What about retired military or police personnel? Unless such people would be willing to work for free—a doubtful proposition—we’re back to the security guard/money problem. There are additional costly issues with security personnel, including state laws regulating such people, bonding/insurance, training, etc.
As for federal security police, one might be tempted to think they’re free because their salaries are paid by the federal government, but those salaries would almost certainly absorb every penny of the recent tax cut, and more. Federal services are never free or without a spider’s web of strings. As to their effectiveness, consider the wonders of the TSA, strip-searching grandmothers, and tiny children in wheelchairs and failing to find weapons and explosives in virtually every security test.
One could ban AR-15s, but there’s the matter of the unalienable, natural, fundamental right to self-defense, and the Second Amendment, written to affirm citizen’s right to keep and bear arms, largely to overthrow the kind of governmental tyranny that would be employed to deprive the people of arms. One might also consider that criminals, and people consumed by evil planning mass murder, are not about to obey any gun law. One should also observe reality: AR-15s and other semiauto rifles are neither “high-powered,” nor uniquely deadly. The Virginia Tech killer, on April 14, 2007, killed 32 and wounded 17 using two common handguns in 9mm and .22LR calibers, cartridges far from being “high-powered.”
Well then, we’ll just seize all the guns! This is the ultimate goal of the Left, but any such attempt, even an attempt to seize only a single class of guns, would provoke civil war–a hot civil war, and it wouldn’t matter who was president at the time.
I’ll not go into mental health issues other than to point out that after school shootings, hindsight often finds the shooters to be odd people who might have displayed signs that in retrospect, are troubling, but they have no criminal records sufficient to deprive them of arms, and never have they been adjudicated as mentally ill. The Sandy Hook Elementary Killer was known as an odd person. He saw many psychologists and counselors over many years, but not one found his behavior threatening, not one predicted his attack. In fact, a mental health commission established after the attack was careful to note mental health professionals cannot predict school attacks and cannot be held accountable for that inability. You might, gentle readers, wish to visit J. Christian Adams at PJ Media on potential causes.
The ultimate problem is human nature. Evil exists. Some people are simply evil, and evil people do evil things. Whether they are somehow mentally defective, their parents abused them, they are inspired by the author of evil, or even possessed by demons doesn’t matter to their victims. Thankfully, the number willing to carry out mass school attacks remains small, but they have always existed and always will, and there is nothing we can do about that. Nothing.
What does that leave us? What can we do, if anything, to deter, and if deterrence fails, to stop school shooters?
There is a simple method, one that would cost little, would effectively deter shooters, and alone, would allow school personnel to stop an attack, potentially before a single person is wounded or killed: allow willing, qualified school personnel—teacher and support staff—to carry concealed handguns.
Concealed carry licensees constitute a ready pool. Many teachers already have such licenses, but are not, with a few states being exceptions, allowed to carry on school property. Texas, for example, allows teachers to keep firearms in their vehicles on school property, and to carry concealed if their districts establish a policy allowing it, but thus far, few have. Most simply prohibit it.
In 2016, I posted an article with a model armed school policy. In that article, I established a fundamental principle:
Fundamental Principle: to have as many armed staff members present in every school as possible, so that when and wherever an attack takes place, there will be multiple armed and capable adults ready, then and there, at that instant, to save lives.
I recommend taking the link and reading that article, but for the moment, allowing every willing concealed carry license holder to carry concealed—the weapon must be completely concealed and always on the person—and publicizing the fact that all employees are allowed to carry, and many are, is the most effective possible deterrent. Unfortunately, this will be resisted because any school district that does not have the policy will be painting a target on the backs of their students and staff, and once nearby districts adopt the policy, they’ll have no choice. That’s right. They’d rather allow their students to be murdered than allow responsible adults to protect their lives.
The tendency to over-regulate must be avoided. To do otherwise violates the fundamental principle. Teachers must be allowed—within professional reason–to carry the handgun they can effectively conceal and shoot well. No teacher need be a police officer or trained to that standard. They need only sufficient skill with their handgun, and to know the law relating to the use of deadly force. Their handguns will only be removed from concealment if they need to save themselves or another from the imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death. Tactical training should be offered every year, but that would be the only real expense for any school district.
Even if a given school had no one carrying concealed, it would enjoy the deterrence benefit. For a school of 3200 students, and likely, 300 or so staff, it’s the only rational possibility. Multiple adults on every floor, in every hallway, in every building, ready and able to save lives, is the only policy that can save lives. To do otherwise, to do less, is to tacitly accept some number of wounded and dead. That number will always be determined by the number of officers on the street when the call is made, traffic patterns, their knowledge of the school facility, the lack of marksmanship of the killer, in other words, dumb luck.
School shootings will happen again; anywhere; anytime. We cannot prevent them, but we can deter and potentially, stop them when and where they occur.
The next time someone feigns shock at the mere idea of armed teachers, ask them this: an armed killer is walking down the hallway of the school where your eight year-old daughter attends class. It will take thirty rounds of gunfire before a phone call is made to the police, 45 seconds for the call to be dispatched, five minutes for the first officer to arrive, and five more minutes for him to enter the school and locate the shooter. Would you rather have multiple teachers armed and ready to stop the shooter, perhaps before he fires a single round, or are you comfortable waiting for that first officer, who stands a 50/50 chance of being shot and killed by the shooter?
Here is my most recent series of articles on this issue, which discuss every issue relating to school shootings in much more detail:
I also recommend a visit to my favorite Bookroom, for her take on the competing political philosophies involved.