'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

15 December 2012

School Shootings

I posted this on 2-29-12, after the last horrific school shooting. I'm re-posting it because it sums up my view of how we address these atrocities if the safety of our children really is the bottom line.

I've waited for the emotion and sorrow of the latest horrific incident of school violence to lessen before I made any comment. Frankly, I usually let these things pass without any comment at all because I find it incredibly insensitive to discuss them in light of the weight words may carry to the bereaved and the surviving victims. "Dancing In The Blood Of The Innocent" is how it's usually referred to and I abhor the practice. Still, I find myself in the position of needing to speak out in view of the ignorant screeching of the usual disarmament and 'Gun Free Zone' zealots. I hope I may be forgiven for my part in this discussion but I need to speak my heart. I'll not link to any of them but that's Ok. We've heard that song before. Many times and always to our societal injury and individual sorrow.

School violence is not a modern phenomena. One of the earliest in American history was the 1927 Bath County, Michigan school bombing by one Andrew Kehoe that eventually killed 45 and injured 58. Since then there have been many more. Here's a Wikipedia link to more if you'd care to peruse it. How have we responded? Well, the responses have been essentially variations on the Shelter In Place, Profiling and Police Response themes. Take a careful read through this document; Stone & Spencer—Enhancing an Active Shooter School Emergency Plan Using Ambient Materials and The Southwest Journal of Criminal Justice, Vol. 7(3) School Resource Officers (2010). Please note some of the conclusions drawn (emphasis mine);

Those findings most relevant to the current discussion were: attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to the attack; there is no accurate or useful profile of students who engaged in targeted school violence; and despite prompt law enforcement responses, most shooting incidents were stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention (United States Secret Service, 2004).

In effect, of the thousands or hundreds of thousands of possible threats made or detected every year, only two or three will be real. While there is no accurate way to calculate the false positive rate, since there is no reliable recording of “threats or perceived threats”, it is reasonable to assume that the false positive rate is very high on predicting targeted violence. Responding to a large number of false positive threats would consume enormous resources and be very disruptive to the educational environment. While threat assessment as a strategy cannot be dismissed, it clearly does not represent “the” solution to school shootings.

All of this additional material about targeted violence, physical security and student support programming was also implemented into school districts’ emergency plans, again contributing to the “planning burnout” effect. School administrators find themselves trying to analyze an almost infinite number of threats, decide which represent the greatest threat, install physical security to counter those threats and implement psychological support programming for unidentified disorders with almost no additional budget.

In considering what else can be done to improve current lockdown plans, the authors realized that any suggestions would have to be “cost effective” and politically acceptable to parents, teachers and school administrators. Some suggestions made in the past such as arming teachers were simply not politically acceptable, even if the implementation problems could be overcome (McLelland & Frenkil, 2009).

The 1990 FBI tests established that a common 9mm cartridge could penetrate an average of 29 inches of ballistic gelatin, a substance designed to simulate human tissue. Under their standards, 12 inches of penetration was considered the minimum to produce a fatal or incapacitating wound. What was even more revealing, is that this same cartridge could first penetrate two sheets of gypsum wallboard spaced 3.5 inches apart (simulated interior wall) and then still penetrate an average of 27 inches of ballistic gelatin. A barrier of ¾ inch plywood also proved to have minimal ballistic resistance leaving an average penetration of 28 inches in gelatin (FBI 1990). In effect, common interior walls, especially those of “portable or temporary” classrooms simply are not effective barriers to common firearms. Sheltering in place behind these walls obstructs the vision of the assailant but provides minimal real safety. This would also need to be considered when tactical (QUAD) entry by the police is being attempted. Students sheltering in place behind non-ballistic resistant barriers would be in danger from police gunfire as well as the gunfire of the assailant.

There's a lot more there and it's worth your time to read and ponder.

There's another factor to consider. The use of School Resource Officers (SROs). This also is not a new phenomenon. The first known SRO program was in Flint, Michigan in the 1950s. Here's a typical duty description for an SRO. Now don't get me wrong here, I'm a supporter of the SRO program and the officers who do that job but consider this. Skip down to 11:22 and 11:23 where it talks about the SRO. He exchanges gunfire with one of the shooters at 11:24. Things have changed a bit since then and primarily as a response to this incident. Now you hear terms like Active Shooter Response and Quick Action Deployment. It's basically form up and march to the sound of the guns as opposed to form a perimeter and await SWAT. It's a laudable and much needed response but again consider how many of the school shootings had an SRO on the grounds? I don't know how many (and have so far not been able to find out) but seeing as we've had the program since the 1950s and the fact that there are over 9000 SROs currently serving and the conclusion is obvious. There have been some and probably more than a few. I can point to one and it's still the worst school shooting in American history. That's not denigrating the SRO program, just pointing out that it's not the panacea some seem to believe it is.

So let's examine where we've been and where we are now. School violence has been around for at least 85 years and doesn't seem to be ending permanently any time soon. Responses like Shelter In Place and Profiling have a limited utility. Profiling doesn't work (and may subtract from the overall mission given the sheer number of false positives leading to program burnout) and there is a marked (and decidedly non survivable) difference between cover and concealment. SROs are a positive addition and a good tool but cannot be everywhere at once nor foresee every possible scenario in time to stop all threats before deaths and injuries occur and to expect them to is sheer folly and wishful thinking. Even in cases where an SRO is in a position to stop a threat there are no guarantees. The creation of Gun Free Zones has added precisely zero to the conversation except as talking points for the victim disarmament groups. It hasn't worked, doesn't work and will never work. Anyone who says differently is either lying or kidding themselves and you. Where guns exist there is no such thing as a gun free zone and guns will always exist. It really is just that simple. Might as well create a disease free zone. It's just as useful a concept.

Where do we go from here? Well, I may be the wrong guy to ask. I spent 24 years as a street level police officer in sunny and crime ridden California so I've seen the results of victimization and what those dedicated to violence do to their fellow man. I have zero tolerance for lawlessness and criminality. I believe in every person's innate right to defend themselves, and more importantly given the current topic, those they love. It is stupidity bordering on the criminal if not outright treasonous behavior to seek the disarming of the innocent and law abiding. So, my solution to the school shootings is simple. Let's take 'Political Acceptability' out of the armed school discussion.

Every teacher and school administrator should be required to attend and pass a basic firearms course as a prerequisite to a teaching credential. The cost isn't onerous and can be easily absorbed into their curricula and funding. I'd bet you could find or set up parent and concerned citizen groups that would help financially and instructors who would volunteer their time. Take a look at the responses to the arming of pilots discussions if you doubt me. After graduation and after accepting a teaching position all teachers and administrators would require to qualify regularly and attend further shooting and gun handling classes in their free time (Summer vacation, Spring break, etc. and all paid for by the taxpayer). Want to be a Principal or Vice? Fine, go to SWAT school first. Every school should have a dedicated and trained shooter response team. Let's be honest here. Even in cities that have an excellent response time it is never ZERO. In a armed school that response time would be as close to zero as we're ever going to have unless we go ahead and staff every classroom with an armed and trained police officer each and every school day and if you do that every school budget will crash and every city's tax rate will skyrocket. Want an advanced educational degree or teaching certificate? No problem. There's a wealth of precision rifle schools just begging for motivated students. And every teacher or wanna be had better be good else we'll find someone else who is just as smart but can acquire the skills and mindset we need.

I don't want Gun Free Schools, I want Obviously and Overwhelmingly Armed schools. I want teachers walking around with a Glock on their hip and an AR15 hanging from a carry sling with Level IIIA body armor under a Tac Vest. I want snipers on the roof with 300 Win Mags and range cards and known distance markers in the parking lot. I want anyone who even dreams about taking out a school to wake up with nightmares and a sudden desire to tackle something safer, like a National Guard Armory. I want anyone who does try to die with a sucking chest wound that will only bubble long enough for the Splat part of Tap Tap Splat to reach him. I want our children to be safe. Anything less is an admission that the aim isn't safer schools, it's gun banning pure and simple. The anti Second Amendment crowd would have us all believe that their aim is a safer America. That their only concern is for the victims and the children. That's pure political bullshit. That they don't even acknowledge anyone who isn't killed by a gun is instructive. That they refuse to allow, much less demand, the actual safety of our children is murderously criminal. They are absolutely guaranteeing that there will be more and more such school shootings period. And they won't quit  until we either surrender to them or take matters into our own hands. For them this is a political question not one of true violence prevention and it is completely despicable.

The gun genie is absolutely and irrevocably out of the bottle and there is no way humanly possible to stuff him back in. There will still be guns on this planet 3 years after the sun burns out. So, if disarmament is not working then those who use such tragedies as the killings of our children to bludgeon the public over the head with the Gun Free and Gun Ban hammers are not, indeed cannot, be serious about putting a permanent stop to violence against the innocent. That they won't even discuss or consider it tells you all you need to know about them.

As I write this I can already see the rivers of flame heading my way. Good. If you've got a better answer I'll listen with an open mind and debate it with you. But let me leave you with these 2 tidbits;

The Harrold Independent School District in Texas
The University of Utah (scroll down to the section 'Student Life' and read the last sentence).

Now do an Internet search of each of those academic institutions under the heading 'Mass School Shootings At...' and let me know what you find. I'm not saying it'll never happen because neither is the armed school I envision but it's data and at least enough for a rational discussion about real solutions for real school safety instead of the usual 'If Only We Got Rid Of All The Guns' nonsense the anti Second Amendment crowd continues to spout. It's just another chance for them to bathe in innocent blood and preach at people who know better and understand that allowing the inmates free run is precisely the opposite of a rational school safety policy.

I'm an anti crime, pro gun advocate but I am those things precisely because of what I did for a career. There is indeed evil in this world and closing your eyes to it and trying to wish it away with platitudes, wishful thinking and reliance on those with a political drum to beat is suicidal at best, genocidal at worst. There will always be crime and therefore criminals. Placing the safety of our children in the hands of the violent, deranged and psychopathic is insane.

Here's the bottom line for me. It has to be obvious by now to the rational and those not motivated by liberal politics that what we've done so far hasn't worked. More of the same will simply lead to more of the same. It's time to take a look at the issue with a critical eye and an open mind.
Finally I leave you with this. It's an article from Hoover Alabama entitled "Preparing for the unthinkable". The title alone should tell you something. If you regard anything as 'unthinkable' then you've already buried your head in the sand. It's just an article I picked more or less at random but it underscores just what I'm talking about. In it Mo Canady from the National Association of School Resource Officers is quoted. Read it and ask yourself what is it really that he's advocating and what new and innovative approaches to the issue of school shootings is he putting forth? This thinking and these policies (metal detectors for crying out loud! That's the best you can do?) are what's being put forth as the proper, indeed only, way to secure your child's school. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If it's not insanity what is it? We're really only left with three options; gross incompetence, wishful thinking or evil intent.

It's up to you to decide.



Bag Blog said...

I just dropped by from reading your comments over at NavyOne's blog and read this post. Since I totally agree with the need to protect yourself and your loved ones, I haven't a lot to say. Having been a school teacher, I would definitely like to have carried a gun and think all teachers should be trained in such matters.

I live near Harrold School District, which you linked to and remember when the principal's views of arming teachers came out on national news. I've been to basketball games there. Most of the kids probably carry a gun under the seat of the pick-up trucks from going hunting before school. I'm not sure why everyone was so horrified at the principal's thoughts.

Six said...

Thanks for stopping by and dropping us a comment Bag Blog and Welcome.

I'm glad to read your thoughts. I really believe that teachers want to protect their charges as many have demonstrated at the cost of their lives. Given time and motivation I think they would come to embrace at least the basic idea of having the means and training to stop attacks on their students.

The DO said...

I fail to understand why people don't see the link here... Helpless and innocent, with no protection makes for an easy target. Those poor kids. It is a sickening thing that man did, but he, like so many others, chose those who could not fight back. Be it a gun or a knife, people like him will always prey on the innocent. The only weapon we have is to be meaner than they, and better armed. Damn straight I want my kids school office armed. And teachers and whom ever else needed.