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To Hate the Gun: Why Blaming the Weapon Does Nothing to Stop the Killing

Leland Johnson is a student of history, religion, politics, and current events. He wishes to respectfully engage readers on those points.

Our most precious assets; our worst fears

Our most precious assets; our worst fears

Can We Agree?

Can we agree on one thing? No one wants to see the continuation of gun violence in our schools; isn't that true?

Regardless of whether you are liberal or conservative, Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian, I think it is safe to say that all reasonable people wish to see gun violence brought to an end. What we can't agree upon is how to make that wish a reality.

I submit for your consideration the possibility that a solution, at least a minimization of gun violence, is closer than we may realize. The first step towards a solution is to come together on common ground. People from opposite ends of the political spectrum may never agree when it comes to taxes or social programs, but we need to find common ground on this issue because it is this issue that determines all others.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights and that among them are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Note the order: "Life" comes first. If we do not have a life there is little point in discussing our positions as to the meanings of "liberty" and the "pursuit of happiness."

I have found, as I'm sure you have as well, that discussion of this subject evokes passionate emotions. The problem here is that more often than not discussions quickly turn into arguments. Accusations are made, insults are hurled. While such behaviors may serve as a cathartic they do nothing to advance the discussion.

So let us begin by agreeing that we are all reasonable, that we all care, and that we are all looking for answers to this heinous plague on our society. While we bicker, while you read this article, a shooter is somewhere planning an attack. What can be done to stop him?

Would arming teachers solve the problem?

Would arming teachers solve the problem?

Task Force Officer's Position on Arming Teachers

I attended a safety/security meeting at a local high school. The meeting was hosted by the school superintendent along with the chief of police and an interesting law enforcement officer I will call "Tom." Tom heads up a special task force in a tri-city community serving some 90,000 people.

The meeting began by allowing audience members to pose questions to school and law enforcement officials. I would like to share some of the highlights of that meeting with you. I think it is important that we consult experts in the field, of which, Tom was one. I was fortunate enough to ask the first question.

"Officer Tom, I have thought a lot about arming teachers and the problem I have is that I believe teachers should teach. I don't think they should have the burden of also being responsible for security. I think there should be some kind of special security detachment to handle security issues. What are your thoughts?"

Tom responds: "There are a number of problems with arming teachers. For one thing, let's say we (the police) get a call that there is a shooter in the building. We enter the building and see a teacher holding a weapon. We may think he is the suspect and take him out. Also, what if a shooter runs behind students while the armed teacher is drawing a bead on him—the teacher fires and shoots a student, or worse multiple students."

I found myself agreeing with Tom for reasons I hadn't considered. At that point, other audience members began shouting spirited remarks such as, "I have my CPL, why can't I go into the school? I'd protect the kids! I've had training!"

Tom responded patiently, "I think it should be left to professionals. Officers can be sent for special training to the Air Marshal academy. These officers are specially trained to take down assailants. They are the best marksmen (and women) in law enforcement because they train to shoot in close quarters. I know some of you have had training, but let me share some statistics with you."

stats about air marshalls

stats about air marshalls

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Sobering Statistics

Tom Continued. "Remember the Boston Marathon bombers?"

Heads nodded.

"19 police officers were wounded in the search and eventual capture of one assailant and killing of the other. Most of the wounds were a result of friendly fire. In the chaos and adrenaline, even the professionals struggle to make the right shots."

"Here's another example. Columbine, 1999. The shooters, Klebold and Harris had been dead for 14 minutes. S.W.A.T. enters the building. 61 shots are fired. Let me repeat that: 61 shots are fired after the shooters had killed themselves. S.W.A.T. team members got confused once inside the building and began firing at each other. Now folks this happened to well-trained professionals. How much better do you think you would react in a similar situation? You've never had the training they've had. You've never been shot at or had to shoot at someone else. Do you really think you could do better than S.W.A.T.?"

The audience seemed to settle down after Tom asked those questions. I think he makes excellent points.

Air Marshalls Patrolling Our Schools

Tom continued sharing his reasons for believing the Air Marshall program may hold the solution.

  • "Marshals would be a better fit than a police/school liaison officer. What happens in the latter is that the officer and staff tend to get familiar and casual over the school year and let their guards down."
  • "The marshal is in civilian clothes so you'd never know who he is. A shooter couldn't target the marshal."
  • "Multiple agents could serve the school district and go from school to school on a daily basis."
  • "Air Marshals are federal agents. It would be a federal program initiative."
  • "Air Marshals are trained in special hand-to-hand combat, tactics specific to aggressor take-downs, and reacting as safely as possible in crowd situations. They are the best tactical shooters in law enforcement."
  • "No defense can be 100% effective, but an Air Marshal program would reduce the risk of active shooter situations and increase security in our schools."

Failure of Broward Sheriff's Department to Act During Parkland School Shooting

Get Involved

More questions were put to the police chief regarding security and response of the police in the event of an active shooter. The chief gave some very sound assurances.

"What happened in Parkland, Florida will not happen here. Our officers are trained to enter the building and engage the shooter no matter what. You won't see our guys waiting around outside while the shooter is inside the building. It won't happen."

Audience member: "Chief, what about the fact that the police in Broward County were called some 40 times regarding the dangerous nature of Nick Cruz (Parkland gunman)? What is your department's procedure if you get a call about a potential threat.?"

Chief: "We have received calls on students, some of whom are now in jail or juvenile detention. If we get a tip about a kid who made a threat to the school we go immediately to his house. We detain him. If we can confirm that he made a threat via any social media we got him. We do not wait around for a potential threat to do something. We check it out and, as I said, if the situation merits it we make an arrest."

Attend School Meetings

I encourage parents and community members to attend meetings like the one in my town. If one has not been set up by your school superintendent I recommend calling him/her and requesting a meeting as soon as possible.

Now is not the time to talk about gun control/confiscation. First, let's secure our schools. Then we can talk about the more controversial issues of gun control and mental health; issues that definitely need addressing, but first things first. Blaming the NRA and demanding gun control will do nothing to safeguard our children. I recently watched a man angrily berating Marco Rubio and insisting he does something to work with the community, presumably enforcing gun control measures.

The man was well received by the audience and applauded him for "telling off" a U.S. senator, but what good did his outburst really do? People have been talking about gun control for two decades now: Paduka, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland. All the banter only serves to buy future shooters more time to plan.

We need to secure our schools. The politicians know this. Their children are never the victims of school shootings. The reason is that the schools they attend are guarded, secured, protected. Why don't our children deserve the same protection as the children of our politicians? Ever enter a city courthouse? Metal detectors, guards, x-ray scanners: I think our children deserve as much protection as attorneys at our local courthouses, don't you?

There is a short term solution to school shootings. The solution is the securing of our schools. Failing to appreciate that is to miss the point. It is a costly error, one that depends upon our citizens mistaking good intentions for right actions. It is an error that finds contentment, not in solving the problem, but rather in hating the gun.

It takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.

It takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2018 Leland Johnson

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