I waited a while before offering my two cents on the school shooting topic. It seems that we keep getting back to debating the gun control issue every time it happens. While that’s obviously pertinent, we don’t get past it.
That topic has been diced and sliced for decades. In the background, there have been dozens, if not hundreds of mass casualty incidents at schools and colleges across the country. There have also been stabbings. And pipe bombs.
We could appease those on the Right by protecting all guns and the rights of their owners. In our violent society, people need to be able to protect their families. I agree. The vast majority of gun owners are responsible and have been trained to use their weapons.
We could instead confiscate all guns and melt them into manhole covers. Guns don’t load and fire themselves, but they sure as hell make it easier to inflict the maximum number of casualties in a minimal amount of time. I’ve seen it myself.
We could do either one of these things, but it won’t keep a sick individual from obtaining some kind of weapon and embarking on a rampage. So, I guess we could try to provide mental health care to all troubled individuals. That’s a very noble gesture, but is it practical? Someone always slips through the cracks.
Like the latest perpetrator, whom I refuse to write here. I won’t give that selfish bastard the right time of day.
There were multiple points of failure that led up to this scenario. If any one of these failures had not occurred, there’s a possibility that this tragedy wouldn’t have happened. Some people knew that he was a problem but kept it to themselves.
He telegraphed his actions through social media. It’s not difficult for someone to search through multiple websites and social media platforms for his name, email address, username or handle, and start connecting the dots. I’ve done it.
He was reported, but the FBI for some reason was unable to act. The sheriff’s department had received nearly 2 dozen calls about him for a decade. During a 9-year period, there were 45 911 calls regarding him, his sibling, and his residence.
It was perfectly legal for him to buy the weapon. There were no red flags when he made the purchase. If any of the warnings had been heeded, there should have been a LOT of red flags popping up.
What all this points to is that no matter how hard we try, we will never, EVER stop someone this sick and determined from attempting this again. What we need to do is build on the procedures and precautions that schools have in place.
One of these is having a school resource officer at the school for the sole purpose of reacting to an attack. I understand that there was one present at the school in Parkland, but he didn’t enter the building. He has been quoted that he stayed outside because he thought that the shots were coming from outside the school. Any combat veteran has experienced this; it’s called the Fog of War, or lack of situational awareness. So, he became one of the points of failure. That doesn’t mean that the other SROs would make that mistake.
There is a federal fingerprint database that is able to provide a match to anyone who has been fingerprinted. Is it that much more difficult to have one that lists any citizen who has made threats: in this case, multiple threats?
A few years ago, I was working at night at a local college. I heard a commotion outside my office, A student was screaming at a professor. The kid was unhinged. The instructor was 2 weeks from retirement, so he just walked out of the building and rode off into the sunset. The student walked into my office, still fuming. I told him that going off in the middle of a campus was not cool. He replied: “It’ll all be cool when I put him in the ground!”
I replied, “Wait here one second, please.” Then I walked 10 feet down the hall to the Public Safety Office and filed a report. And guess what? I wasn’t the first to complain about him. In the end, he wasn’t expelled or disciplined in any way. Instead, he was brought in to the office, and warned, a repeat offender and someone who had bragged that he had access to weapons. The reasoning behind doing nothing was that they didn’t want to “push him over the edge.” Upon hearing this, I wrote up a Memorandum for Record (a document that’s used in the military, but I felt was more than appropriate at the time), putting the administration on notice that I disagreed their decision. The purpose was to provide enough documentation on this student so that someone would take notice and act. Lucky for everyone on that campus, he never followed through on any of his threats. The point is: any threat needs to be documented and disseminated to the decision makers.
There is a big push to arm teachers and train them to become first responders. The idea is not necessarily to kill or wound the assailant, but to keep the shooter’s head down, and distract him until the police arrive. That could work, but that brings up all kinds of issues. The teachers would have to be extensively trained, and then would need to qualify with their weapons. As someone who has run weapons qualification ranges for over 20 years, I believe that this might turn into an administrative and logistical nightmare.
Who will train them? Who will run the qualification ranges? Who will pay for their weapon and ammunition? What about their legal liability if they must take a life? If the teacher/first responder calls in sick, is there another to take his or her place? The day they are absent is the day that something will happen. It’s called Murphy’s Law.
If we really want to implement this, it would probably be a better idea to hire teachers who are combat veterans, or retired police officers. The Department of Defense already has partnered with colleges on a program which prepares vets for teaching careers: http://proudtoserveagain.com. Again, speaking from personal experience, if anyone has to respond to an active shooter, it shouldn’t be their first time that they’ve had to face down and try to eliminate a threat.
I’ll take the first responder issue further. A paramedic who works in a city near me and deals with the aftermath of violent crime daily, feels that schools need to train teachers, students, and staff as medical responders. My fellow soldiers and I were trained in a comparable way: we were called Combat Lifesavers. Because they are unfortunately already on scene, teachers and students are best positioned to stop bleeding, treat for shock, etc.
The longer we continue to debate the gun control issue in the wake of these mass casualty incidents involving our young people, the less prepared we are the for the next one. And sadly, there will be a next one. Let’s hope that it only ends up being an attempt.
I realize that those on both sides of this debate will take issue with what I’ve written. That’s cool; they’re allowed to speak their mind. They should get in line and bring a few Snickers, because they’re gonna be a while.
Stop kicking the can down the road…