First and foremost I feel extreme sadness for the victims and their families of the recent school shooting in Parkland. Having been a police officer and traffic homicide investigator for my entire adult life I have seen my share of death and tragedy. If I have learned anything during those years it was that reactions to these types of situations usually are emotionally driven and do not really have any basis in facts or logic. I also trained security forces of the Army that secured our nuclear weapons. So I know a bit about protecting things.
The Facts on Firearms
Let’s look at a few facts so we are dealing in the realm of logic and real things that could make a real difference. First evil exists in the world. There has always been and will always be people that have some reason to hate their fellow humans and will try and harm and kill for various reasons. Regardless of the reasons, the outcome is the same and that is what we have to focus on. Also, we need to look and see if this a problem that is increasing, decreasing or staying the same. Why? Because that could have a bearing on what has or has not been working. Again logical, calm reasoning.
First has mass murder, or murder in general increased over time? In looking to the FBI and Department of Justice we find statistics that tell us the factual truth. Since a peak in 1993 Murder in the United States has gone down by over 40%. But that just does not seem right. The news, social media, and ability of news to travel at the speed of light has made it seem like these things are on a dramatic increase. How many times have you heard “We never had these things when I was a kid.” When in reality these things have been going on for decades. But with the instant media we have now, it seems like it has become an epidemic when in reality we are far better off now than just 20 years ago. Even violent crime is down in several categories.
Violent crimes per 100K people in the US went from 747.1 in 1993 to 372.6 in 2015. That is a drop of >50%! The chances of you becoming the victim of a violent crime, any violent crime, went from 79.8 per 1000 people in 1993 down to 18.6 in 2015, again a dramatic drop of >76%! But if you listen to the news and other sources, you would never know this.
Also are guns a problem in the United States? Again let’s look at the facts not emotions. Firearms account for around 11,000 to 13,000 murders a year. That is criminal murders, not suicides (firearms account for only 6% of suicide attempts) or defensive uses of Firearm. 13,000 murders out of a country of 350,000,000 people is actually pretty darn good. Yes if you are one of the victims or family of a victim it is not, but you are more likely to die from many other more common causes than being shot to death with a firearm.
And the last fact is about firearms, notice the focus of Congress and State Legislators on the “assault rifle”. So just how many people are killed with these “high powered” “killing machines”? For the answer, we turn to the FBI and DOJ again and guess what, rifles of any kind account for the least amount of firearms deaths except for shotguns. In 2016, out of about 11,000 firearms murders, only 374 of those were committed with a rifle. And if you know anything about firearms, a shotgun or pistol is a far better weapon for use inside a building. Pistols are used far more than rifles or shotguns, actually more people are murdered by hands and feet and knives than the big bad assault rifle.
What can be Done to Prevent or Lessen the Impact of Mass Murderers?
Well first let’s look at the causes that we do know about for some of these events. Bullying, terrorism, Workplace violence, mental illness, and others. So we can, of course, focus on some of those like mental illness, better treatment or better screening.
But those things are already being considered. Could we do better trying to find and screen those types of people? Of course.
But in reality, there are three things that actually can be done. First, if you look at places that we spend a lot of money to keep safe from shootings and violence they involve what is called physical security. “Physical security” is the term given to those things you can build or design and put in place that physically make it harder for something like this to happen. In the military, we used fences and blockhouses to secure the nation’s nuclear weapons (among other things of course). I have heard metal detectors mentioned, and fences and other things. Did you know that to build a new school to Fire Prevention standards adds millions to the cost of every school When was the last time we have a kid or multiple kids killed in a school fire? You haven’t because those things have worked and we have been conditioned and taught about them.
So my suggestions are along the same lines as the fire prevention people. Physical things like some bulletproof glass on classroom doors and entry doors, steel core doors that will stop bullets. Doors that can be locked remotely from the office. Cameras and microphones throughout the school are all things we can do to help limit access and stop or lessen the carnage. Metal Detectors are great, but how do you funnel 3000 students through them and into the school each morning without taking hours? All it takes is money. That is the killer of these suggestions most of the time. It cost too much, no one wants to pay for the required upgrades, even if they do save lives.
Add Armed Good Guys
Having been in law enforcement as long as I have been, involved in a few shootings, having seen it first hand, the only thing that will stop an evil person with a firearm bent on killing others is a good guy with a firearm of equal or better firepower. Why do you think police officers carry firearms? So when they are confronted with a firearm-wielding bad guy they can stop the threat, or at least shoot back.
So how would we get more good guys to put in places like K through 12 schools? Well in Florida Senator Baxley filed a bill that would address this issue. The Bill would allow retired LEO’s, Retired Military, Active duty Military and LEO’s to act as additional armed security at the schools. They, of course, would be trained by the local law enforcement, and be screened prior but having additional armed, trained personnel at the school might not only lessen the carnage if something happens, it may act as a deterrent if the future little murderer knew that there were a dozen armed and trained good guys with firearms at the school. Most mass murderers are cowards and kill themselves when confronted by an armed response. I would add to this allowing staff and teachers who are concealed carry licensed to be allowed to carry in the school if they wanted to. I know many teachers I have talked to that would actually go out and get training and get licensed to do this very thing if allowed. One told me “I would die to protect my kids, but I would rather see the bad guy die.” Words well spoken.
For colleges, since they are also a place where these mass murders have happened would be a simple fix of allowing campus carry. Since the college crowd are adults, those that already have licenses to carry concealed firearms outside the college should be allowed to carry inside the college grounds. What makes people think that those people that carry everywhere else should not be allowed to carry at a college to protect themselves? If you look back the last few years at where the college shootings happened, they were almost every one of them a “gun free zone”. Those places where staff and students of colleges are allowed to carry do not seem to have these mass murders. Why is that? Fear of getting shot on the part of the murderer I think.
And in line with this line of thought, get rid of all gun free zones. It has been proven time and time again that “gun free zones” do nothing to stop murderers. Only law-abiding people who are legally carrying follow that rule, and then become an unarmed target. Those people in Florida who are licensed concealed carry permit holders have been shown to be even more law-abiding than me and my fellow LEO’s! Actually 6 times more law abiding. So why can they not be trusted everywhere to carry, they carry almost everywhere now without incident. In fact, it again has been proven that there are times a licensed concealed carrier has saved lives, and some of those my brothers and sisters in blue. End all gun free zones for licensed firearms carriers.
An incentive to make places add security to allow licensed carry on their premises? Pass legislation making them liable for the patrons that visit them if they do not allow concealed carry legally and fail to make additional security measurements to protect their patrons.
Train People in and Make it Easier to Report Suspicious Behavior
Educate our children, and adults, on what to look for and who to report things that make them worry about someone or someone’s behavior. The “See something, say something” that is the current phrase used to remind people to report these things is great, but we need to not only teach kids and adults what to look for, but also our social networks, internet providers, and others also need to be encouraged if not mandated to report anything that would be considered threatening or dangerous in nature that is directed at a location, school or group.
This last mass school murderer had all kinds of warning signs, and those were reported to the FBI, yet it appears they failed to follow through on the information. This is unacceptable and those responsible should be held accountable. But in the future, policy and procedures need to be put in place to make sure that if something is reported it is followed up on. In line with this, there also needs to be a way for a person wrongly targeted by this attention by authorities to be cleared and the information disposed of when it is found to be nothing of importance.
What Should We Not Do?
Let’s talk reality. It is beyond the point that we need people who have no clue that it would be physically impossible to remove firearms from the people of the USA. There are far too many and far too many people own them now legally without causing any problems at all. Those people who are calling for “gun control” or “bans” have no clue that what they are truly asking is to make millions of Americans into criminals because they chose to arm themselves in order to protect themselves and their families. Confiscation just is not physically or logistically possible, nor would it be Constitutional so let’s stop talking about it.
We should not waste our time or government time on passing more restrictive laws that will not stop a single mass murderer. Why do people not realize that murder is already illegal and carries very stiff penalties yet happens? Mass murderers are not deterred by laws already on the books, what makes any logical smart person think a new law will change that. If you disagree, I have a challenge for you. Name one law that if passed would have stopped one single mass murderer in the last 5 years. I wouldn’t waste your time trying, there is none.
So if we want to stop or lessen the carnage, make physical changes to our schools, just like we did to help prevent fire deaths. Allow qualified, trained armed security to supplement our schools’ law enforcement presence. While we can’t put squads of armed cops in every school, we could probably get enough volunteers to make a difference! And last get rid of the completely ineffective, pointless gun free zones. They do not work and only make for “target rich environments” for someone bent on making high body counts out of unarmed helpless victims.