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Columns : Editorial

How to Stop School Shootings

Everybody seems to have an opinion about how to prevent school massacres, but the only proven response is an armed and trained officer who is willing to engage the gunman.

June 07, 2018  |  by - Also by this author

Editor David Griffith (Photo: Kelly Bracken)
Editor David Griffith (Photo: Kelly Bracken)

Just as we were going to press with this issue of POLICE, a student at a Santa Fe, TX, high school opened fire on his classmates and teachers with a shotgun and a revolver, killing 10. He also critically wounded school resource officer John Barnes, one of two SROs who shot it out with the gunman. Law enforcement officers, including an SRO and a Texas trooper, were able to persuade the shooter to surrender after a gunfight.

School shootings have been the subject of much national debate since the horrifying Valentine's Day massacre at a Parkland, FL, high school. Some of the students at that school have even become national celebrities as they have waged war on the National Rifle Association and sought to weaken the Second Amendment. They argue that the way to protect America's schools is to outlaw certain guns, if not all guns.

These students might be shocked to discover that the vast majority of American law enforcement officers, including SROs, do not believe gun control and "assault weapon" bans are the best way to protect our schools from attack.

In March, POLICE conducted a survey of law enforcement officers that asked multiple questions about AR-15s, gun control, school shootings, and active shooter training. You can read our report on the survey at www.policemag.com/guncontrolsurvey.

One of the things we asked in that survey was: "What measures would you take to prevent school shootings or improve response to them?" More than 1,500 self-identified law enforcement officers took the time to write an answer to that open-ended question. You can read a full article on responses to this question in our Special Report on Keeping Schools Safe (www.policemag.com/KeepingSchoolsSafe). But here's a short summation.

Many officers said they felt the most effective means of preventing school shootings is to identify people who are a threat to perpetrate such terrible acts before they actually carry them out. Some even suggested a nationwide hotline that students could use to report their suspicions.

Officers believe one of the best ways to stop school massacres is to harden the potential targets. Respondents said schools should reduce the number of ingress and egress points used by students and staff and set up metal detectors and video surveillance to monitor who is coming in and prevent them from bringing weapons with them. Some respondents even said that the federal government should establish a program similar to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to safeguard schools.

To protect students in the event of a shooting, some respondents said they want to see classrooms equipped with armored doors that lock when an alarm is sounded. One respondent said each school employee should have access to a panic button similar to the ones some people wear in their homes to alert their alarm companies if they have an emergency. The panic button would alert police in case of an incident and sound an alarm in the school, warning students and staff.

Beyond issues of gun control, one of the most contentious arguments about school safety in America is whether training and arming staff would be a deterrent to school attacks or at least mitigate the body count. Arming teachers was a popular answer. Another popular idea was allowing armed civilian volunteers, particularly retired law enforcement and military, to patrol schools.

It's little surprise that the single most popular response by the readers of POLICE to the question of how to prevent school shootings and improve law enforcement response to such incidents was to put more officers in schools. Many respondents said every school should have at least one armed SRO on campus during school hours.

This last point is critical to making schools safe from active shooters. There are many things we can do to prevent school shootings before they start, but once the shooter starts firing, the only solution is armed and trained law enforcement response. As we saw in last month's Dixon, IL, incident and in a Maryland incident in March, having courageous officers on campus to engage and stop the threat can prevent another Parkland much more effectively than gun control measures or arming teachers.


Comments (6)

Displaying 1 - 6 of 6

Jon Retired LEO @ 6/8/2018 7:14 PM

Great article Mr. Griffith! I believe but can't prove, that these school ambushes are being orchestrated by someone on the far left, in fact so far left that they are ready to fall off the planet. Their main goal is to get all Americans disarmed to achieve a takeover of the general population similar to how the Jews were treated by Hitler. Many will call me crazy, but look at the frequency of these shootings and the outrage that they are rightfully sparking. What better way for the anti-gunners to get to total confiscation.

Terry Retired LEO @ 6/16/2018 8:58 AM

I wouldn't call you crazy Jon. I think you hit the nail right on the head. I would also point out that these shootings always seem to happen at a time when the politicians that have half a brain are trying to further improve our 2nd Amendment rights in one way or another. The timing is just much too convenient.

Jake Retired LEO & Crim @ 6/23/2018 5:50 PM

Thanks Terry for your comments. My self and a group of five people were successful in bringing the SRO program to my county about 38yrs ago, We were having a number of issues in the HS and I had read about the program, the focus was not on enforcement but respect for law and other, to build relationships with the Law Enforcement, officers did provide security but they were also in the classroom, athletic fields. The students & teachers saw the officers as men and women who live like many of them. The students started Crime Watch programs and so much more, I want SRO's to bring Community Policing ideas to the schools. It can work, I think the Officer will grow, make better managers as the progress up the ladder, but most of all I want the legislature in FL to cover the cost. Lastly thanks to the men & women who do this job.

gapp @ 7/4/2018 6:45 PM

Reading up on these incidents and seeing the media, there is an undercurrent line that the students knew the shooters were being radicalized and did nothing about it, or worse they made the shooter the target of their jokes. If only they had directed their attentions towards notifying the authorities (school / Police) a lot of these incidents may have been circumvented. Work needs to be done on informing students that they are the front line in combatting these issues and they need to act responsibly and report these people.

Gary @ 7/5/2018 4:40 AM

School shootings have been occurring throughout our history. They are just more reported now. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_school_shootings_in_the_United_States
For someone to suggest that a far left organized agenda is at work here is absurd. Sure, the left capitalizes on these events to call for the disarming of America and to chip away at our rights, but the fact is there are a large number of kids out there who see and experience violence every day and believe the only way to solve "their" problems is through violence. Our society is partly to blame. They don't want persons with mental health issues, who are a danger to themselves or others, to be detained. Violates their rights you know...Instead of blaming these tragedies on a failed Mental Health system the liberals point the finger at the NRA. That makes no sense at all yet the medial joins that insanity. We have kids killing kids and for many of the shootings warning signs are present and the kids say nothing..

Pat @ 7/20/2018 11:02 AM

"They don't want persons with mental health issues, who are a danger to themselves or others, to be detained."

Gary (above) is simply factually correct on this. In other highly developed democracies, the EU countries, Canada, Australia, Japan it is profoundly easier to confine and mandatorily treat the mentally ill. The ACLU still lists the 40 major precedent setting cases it argued in making his almost impossible in the US. Initial evidentiary levels to take a person suspected of being seriously mentally ill are higher, how long they can be held for evaluations and thresholds for both mental health professionals and triers of fact on to decide on adjudication are much higher in the US as well.

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