(Editor’s Note: This Article on school shootings was Originally Written in 2006 for a law enforcement journal)
Nobody likes a Monday Morning Quarterback, I know I don’t, but the FAA Investigator at the scene of an airplane crash is not a Monday Morning QB. He is there to try and prevent whatever happened from happening again.
If, as cops and professional security providers, we are truly serious about halting and preventing serious crime we must be like the FAA Investigator and examine “crashes” in our realm, our Area of Responsibility. Regarding the latest school shooting in Colorado, we, the professional good guys, cannot afford to simply shake our heads and say “what a senseless shame”. That’s for the talking heads on Cable TV to do.
(Author’s Note: this article was written shortly after a hostage standoff and murder at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado)
#1 School Shootings: Armed Bad Guy Enters a School
But, didn’t he realize that schools are “Gun Free Zones”? Didn’t he realize the increased penalties for having a gun within 100 ft, 500 ft, 1000 ft of a school? Didn’t he read the school’s policy forbidding the carrying of “any weapon” on the property?
Society’s well-meaning, but totally deluded sheep are obsessed with their little white signs and placards declaring this building or that to be a “Gun Free Zone” or “No Weapons Permitted”. (Unless of course you are a homicidal maniac and don’t give a damn about the sign, then feel free.) Ask any beat cop about the effectiveness of a Civil Protection Order or Temporary Protection Order. It’s a piece of paper, nothing more.
Shiny placards, clever little signs, and policy papers don’t stop crime. They might give the prosecutor one more charge to hang on the guy if he’s ever brought to trial, but they don’t stop crime. You cannot sterilize the world.
What do the signs really do? They tell the bad guy that he has a nearly unlimited pool of totally defenseless victims. It doesn’t have to be a gun. Do I have to remind you that nineteen fanatics killed three thousand people while armed with box cutters? Why do crazed psycho’s commit school shootings? Why not police departments? Because everyone has a gun in the police station and the psycho would be dead in the first ten seconds.
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#2 One Hostage Died
During the siege that ended the standoff at Platte Canyon High School, one hostage died. That sucks. The loss of one innocent person, particularly a child, is a tragedy. But it was one, not ten, not twenty, and not more than one hundred. We Americans have short memories and don’t really seem to care when bad stuff happens outside our borders. Everyone can tell you what happened at Columbine High School. How many could tell you what happened in Beslan, Russia? How many American citizens can tell you that it was Islamic terrorists, who tortured, yes tortured, and murdered children in Beslan?
Without a doubt, the true “Monday Morning Quarterbacks” are going to take that SWAT team in Colorado to task because one person died, rather than congratulate them for saving the lives of the rest. Talking heads and society’s sheep will opine as to whether a longer negotiation would have been appropriate and you can bet that some spineless weenie will step up and offer that greater gun control would have prevented the crime. Again, to that, I would offer that we need greater box cutter control.
As professional good guys and warfighters, we have spoiled the American public. We do our job so well that they expect perfection, and need to kill all the bad guys, one hundred percent of the time with zero loss of innocent life. That just isn’t reality and we know it. The world is an imperfect place. As professionals, rather than wring our hands and lament, we need to understand that we can win and we do make a difference. Keep training and training hard. Learn from any tactical errors, correct those errors, and hone the edge of your tactical sword.
#3 Schools are Cherries
If you are a psychopath with a statement to make, whether you are a lone lunatic or a political/religious fanatic, you need a few ingredients to terrorize the nation. First, you need a ready supply of helpless victims. It used to be an airplane full of hostages, but that has become too difficult to pull off.
Ripe for the Picking
Next, you need the tools to threaten and kill. Any firearm will do, but again, knives work too. Homemade bombs are easy enough to make with household chemicals and training. Of course, you need a willing media to broadcast the horror into every living room in the nation, live if possible.
I’m not giving away any closely guarded state secret when I say that every school in America is a potential cherry for the determined bad guy. Their particular motivation is immaterial. The truth is that taking out a lone gunman by a SWAT Team is relatively easy. What would you do if confronted by a team of three or four terrorists?
If you operate in a small town it’s all too easy to say, it can’t happen here. Large metropolitan areas, LA, New York, Chicago, have full-time, highly trained SWAT teams capable of deploying rapidly to deal with threats. How about Middle America? Does your SRT consist of five or six guys who all went to SWAT school a few years ago and train together once a month if the schedule or budget allows?
From the terrorist’s viewpoint, what is the better bet? A big city or small to medium sized one? The longer they can hold out, the more they can prolong the inevitable SWAT takedown, the greater the reward. If they are shut down by SWAT in the first hour that does not give the Cable TV networks much time to set up and live feed the incident. However, if they can stretch it out for hours, even days, all the better. Don’t delude yourself thinking that your community is too small or out of the way to be a target. In the bad guy’s mind, your town may be the best choice of all.
The Fix: Mandatory Law
Over the years I have lived in several states. During the mid-1990’s I lived in Florida. While we were living there the State Legislature passed a mandatory helmet law for children who rode bicycles. That’s right mandatory. No, parents are not smart enough to decide what is best for their children. During the year prior to the new helmet law being passed a total of twelve children were killed during accidents while riding a bike. Even though there was little evidence to establish that any of the kids would have been saved by a Styrofoam and plastic helmet the law went through.
Don’t paint me as some kind of monster here. The loss of twelve children is sad in and of itself. But we are talking about twelve out of what, tens of thousands? A tiny percentage indeed, particularly when compared to the other causes of childhood death including fire, poison, and disease.
Actions Currently Being Taken
Fast on the tail of the nationwide mandatory seat belt laws were mandatory child safety seats. If you fail to put your three-year-old son into a government approved safety seat you can and likely will be fined. In the State of Ohio, the fine is $100. According to published child seat safety regulations, the fine in South Carolina is $150 and in Texas, it’s $200!
Many state legislatures have been pushing through laws to make it a crime if a child is accidentally killed or injured with a firearm that was not equipped with a lock or in a safe. Of course, this goes hand in hand with the “guns are inherently bad and people who own them are de facto bad”. Can you imagine someone proposing a law to make it a criminal act if your child was accidentally injured or killed in a car you were driving? It’s not that big of a leap.
What’s my point and what does this have to do with school shootings? Each year new laws are proposed and many enacted to try and make the world a safe place for our children. State and Federal laws, not parental guidance and supervision, are what are supposed to keep our children free from harm. I can only imagine the forests of trees sacrificed to the bills, amendments, and legislation designed to “make our children safer.” Not to mention the money spent to enact these regulations.
With all this effort put into “protecting our children” from harm, you would think that any area that is populated predominantly with kids would be safer than Fort Knox. Shouldn’t this be particularly true for a school? After all, don’t our kids spend seven to eight hours a day, perhaps longer, five days a week at school? Given the previously highlighted trend, shouldn’t schools be guarded as well as a Brinks truck?
We care so much about our kids’ safety that we put colored stickers and placards up at the entrances warning visitors that it is a crime to carry a firearm or any type of weapon on to school property. On top of that, we install video surveillance cameras to cover every square inch of the grounds. Even lock the doors and tell everyone to sign in at the front desk. Kids are forbidden to carry book bags or backpacks in some schools. Certainly, these measures are more than enough to keep our kids safe in school, right?
How do you Actually Deter a Potential Attacker?
Someone explain to me how it is that with all of this political posturing, self-congratulatory back patting and “feel good” legislation that one lone sicko with a gun can get into a school, terrorize the student body, commit unspeakable acts of depravity against children and murder them? Didn’t they read the sign?
(editor’s note: reference Platte Canyon High attack)
How could this be? Because psychopaths and deviant sickos aren’t dissuaded by shiny signs or placards. They can’t be stopped by surveillance cameras. Any determined person can get into a public building if they try hard enough.
So, how do you stop an armed sociopath? Perhaps with a gun, wielded by a well-trained and competent good guy? “Nope. Can’t do that. Guns are inherently evil and any person, though well-intentioned, with a gun cannot be trusted.” Instead, we continue to put our faith in plastic signs and policy statements all the while creating a victim rich environment.
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