Editor's Note: The views expressed in this article are exclusively those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Officer.com or Cygnus Business Media.
The horrific carnage at Newton, Connecticut is sadly similar to what we’ve seen far too many times. The only good news, if there can be such a thing when referring to this incident, is that the police did another outstanding job in their response. There is plenty of blame to pass around regarding why the murders occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary, but none of it can be ascribed to the police. Departments and agencies across the nation have been diligent in their preparation for active shooter situations. Constant training, both on site and through simulation, has ensured that the police will quickly resolve the problem.
But the big question looms large: How do we attempt to prevent another such tragedy from happening? Well, we start by admitting that we know that a person intent on committing such a horrendous act is difficult to stop. Furthermore, we have seen mass killings take place using means other than firearms, e.g., knives, fire, explosives, cars and chemical agents, to name a few. To take away the firearms of our citizenry based upon one incident is foolhardy and unconstitutional. That said, I’d like to articulate my suggestions on how to harden school security. You may have already heard some of these. Others will hopefully be original and have merit in the eyes of those assigned to reinforce existing layers of security.
The first, and perhaps, foremost challenge to school security is a cultural one. Our society has devolved into a confusing state of rules and policies that at times, are at odds with each other. We have what’s known as “Gun-Free Zones” at schools. That federal designation is well-known, particularly by the bad guys. When this Act was passed in 1990, it effectively created a target-rich environment for anyone with evil intentions to march into a school and expect no armed intervention. According to the law, not even off-duty LEOs can carry on school grounds unless they have a state CCW card. Gun-Free Zone laws need to be amended to prohibit only students and trespassers from carrying guns. Congress needs to quickly fix this open pit before more souls fall into it.
Next, society has conditioned us to become numb to an environment pregnant with violence. Hollywood has given birth to a form of entertainment that contains countless images of violent shootings, robberies, rapes, car-jackings, etc. What used to merit an X-rating, has now become PG-13. Video games are based on killing and destruction, and the graphic depiction of people being shot and otherwise blown apart is more gruesome than the actual act itself. The irony to all of this is that the producers of the movies and games quote the 2nd Amendment as their protection and “right” to make such films and games. If you don’t believe the current generation of video games isn’t violent, explain why our police and military are using them as training tools.
Schools are becoming cold, neutral warehouses for children where any mention of God or traditional feasts and holidays is forbidden, even punishable. Kids are expected to walk around like robots, afraid to interact with other classmates. If a child wants to give their friend a hug, they risk being disciplined for touching someone. They can’t even look at someone without fearing the other person might complain that, “He/She made me uncomfortable.” If your child has a health problem, don’t suggest they bring an aspirin to school. They will probably be charged with a drug offense. Let children be children again.
Regarding the suggestion of having armed police officers in schools, I am a huge proponent of the idea. Some schools balk at the notion, explaining that an armed person is intimidating and threatening to the children. Really? Others, like school boards and/or city council members say it’s too expensive. My response: what is the life of a child worth? Instead of spending money on SUVs for these folks and sending them on political junkets, why not spend the money on salaries for cops? There’s no better investment.
Another source of revenue available to pay a cop assigned to a school is union dues. Unions give a ton of their members’ dues to politicians, along with lining the union officials’ own pockets with teachers’ hard earned money. Spend that money where it’s needed most—on the children’s safety. By the way, the security entourage that mayors and city council members have is wasteful. I know; I used to be on those details. Let those officers do something more worthwhile, let them safeguard our kids.
Another argument I’ve heard raised against the idea of having a cop posted in schools is that the cop will become a target. How ridiculous! Cops are targets 24/7/365, they know it and are trained to take appropriate action. I’d much rather have a cop confront a gunman than an unarmed kindergarten teacher.
Giving guns to teachers? Bad, bad idea. If you’ve ever been a teacher, or know someone who is, you understand the difficulty of their job. It’s not an eight-hour day. They get to school before the kids arrive, and stay long after the children are gone. During the day, not only are they busy teaching, but they also have the sometimes-frustrating job of keeping order and giving special attention to slower students. To burden them with the responsibility of neutralizing an armed intruder is absurd and outrageous.
Speaking of cost, training a teacher to use a firearm safely and effectively would be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. Not only does the teacher need initial firearm training and then re-certification, but he/she would need tactical training as well. Teachers with guns—no way. Cops already have that base covered.
Cameras. Yes. Learn from the casinos in Las Vegas. If you’ve ever been inside one of the surveillance camera rooms in a hotel/casino, you’ve seen how easily the entire complex can be monitored. Cameras can pan and zoom as well, allowing the operator to dial down on an unknown or suspicious subject. The key to surveillance cameras is to have them constantly monitored. That’s the early warning system. A camera without an operator is like a gun without bullets—useless.
Next suggestion: install pull alarms similar to what the schools already have in place for fire alarms. It’s unlikely that a first-grader will have a cell phone. And if a teacher is not present or somehow incapacitated, the children can simply pull the alarm to get help quickly. Costly? Probably. Again, what is your child’s life worth? Instead of buying iPads for everyone and other extraneous items, invest in something that can save a life. Look to businesses in the local community to help foot the bill for some of these enhanced security measures.
Keeping doors locked and providing screening at the main school entrance is an unfortunate reality. Ingress and egress must be controlled. The buzzer system for daytime visitors is no longer an idea, but a needed layer of security.
Mental health issues cannot be ignored. While mainstreaming those who have mental health problems is certainly compassionate, it puts too many others at risk. Confidentiality is literally killing people. Case in point—the Virginia Tech shooter. We need to ensure that we identify each case, and anyone who needs to be notified about that person’s status, is notified. If that individual is deemed to be a risk, removal is the appropriate response.
Guns were not the cause of the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but guns in the hands of cops are a part of the solution. Get a trained cop in each of our schools. Get several in large campuses. We waste cop money and time on unnecessary perks like escorts and V.I.P. protection, that most times translate to making sure someone who thinks they are important doesn’t have to interact with “common folk.” Reassess how we spend our tax dollars. Make each penny count—it’s an investment in the future of our nation: our precious children.
Stay Safe, Brothers and Sisters!