I think we all agree that our collective priority is protecting our children. They are completely dependent on us for protection, and our schools should be treated as sacred ground. In response to the Newtown tragedy, FLEOA was asked to participate in the Vice President's Task Force on Dec. 20.
During the meeting, I expressed the view that a unified nonpartisan approach was essential, and the group should focus on what can realistically be accomplished. The vice president disagreed with the latter part of my view. Nonetheless, I stated that FLEOA was not currently taking a position on the proposed reinstatement of the Assault Weapon Ban since our membership is divided on this issue. I stressed, instead, that the group should focus on using all assets to assess school vulnerabilities. I expressed the view that the Department of Homeland Security could commit its assets, including the Secret Service and Federal Protective Service, to assist.
In addition to making tactical recommendations, I also discussed two legislative points: First, the idea of amending Title 18, USC S922 (q)(2) [carrying an assault weapon in a school zone], and Title 18, USC S922 (x)(1) [selling a gun to a minor], elevating both from a misdemeanor to a felony. Regarding the first statute, anyone caught illegally possessing an assault weapon within a school zone (1,000 feet) would be subject to a felony. This has nothing to do with a law-abiding citizen owning an assault weapon. The only persons possessing assault weapons within a school zone should be law enforcement officers (or LEOSA certified retired officers).
Regarding the second statute, I recommended changing the language to include the word "knowingly" and elevating it to a felony. The goal is to keep firearms out of the hands of minors. Law enforcement would have to prove that someone "knowingly" sold, transferred, or delivered a firearm to a minor to be charged with this statute. The statute is now a misdemeanor and doesn't say "knowingly."
On the tactical front, I also recommended that the federal government work with state and local counterparts to ensure a uniformed officer (or LEOSA certified retired law enforcement officer) be assigned to every elementary school. Aside from the obvious, the purpose of having an experienced law enforcement officer assigned is that it would allow our first responders vital additional seconds to arrive on scene and engage the lethal threat.
Additionally, I expressed written recommendations to strengthen the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' operating capabilities to automate the Tracing Center and improve state efforts to provide the ATF with data on applicants with documented mental health issues. The ATF also needs either a permanent director or one made via a recess appointment.
The vice president specifically tasked me with providing him with a list of recommendations that would better protect our children in schools. In response, FLEOA recommends the following to the vice president:
- Direct the National Threat Assessment Center to update its "School Shooter" study and make immediate recommendations to law enforcement.
- Commit Secret Service and Federal Protective Service assets to working with state and local counterparts to perform vulnerability assessments and recommend practical security protocols for schools to follow.
- Designate funding to support state and local governments in providing a uniformed law enforcement officer (or LEOSA certified retired officer) at each school.
- Support funding for providing all teachers with an emergency alert PDA or app that would allow for immediate covert communication of a crisis. The PDA/app would function as a transmitter/open line, and also provide critical GPS data.
- Ensure all state and local components have access to school building schematics, with capability of transmitting them to first responders on scene.
- Create a "School Safety Inspector" position for all elementary schools, and have this individual conduct assessments of a school's compliance with basic security protocols.
- Provide uniform guidance to school officials regarding conducting scheduled emergency evacuation or lock-down drills.
FLEOA does not support anyone using the Second Amendment as a scapegoat for the Newtown tragedy. Instead, FLEOA is recommending a Safety Summit that includes law enforcement, the NRA, and legislators. All parties should be locked in a room until they come up with practical solutions to better protect our children.