Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. It sounds unlikely, but it happened exactly this way.
A female school teacher who barely came up to my shoulder and was half my weight raced after an armed intruder. She shot him. Fortunately, this was a training exercise. We were using simulated firearms that shot rubber bullets. So how does a 30 year old woman defend her school and soundly defeat a 20 year old man? The answers are surprising. Equally surprising is the role you and I have in saving our children.
In the USA, we recognize that the police cannot be there to defend us. Yes, the police collect evidence of a crime, but we are our own first responders. I recently took a training class for armed school staff in Arizona. The students taking instruction included school teachers and School Resource Officers. The SROs were the visible defenders at their schools. In contrast, the armed school staff were the hidden defenders. Together, they formed an impressive team.
This is a clear case where the whole is so much more than the sum of its individual parts.
That leads us back to my original question of how the slightly built teacher defeated the physically fit 20 year old man. The answers seem obvious in hindsight.
An attacker on campus doesn’t know who is armed. He doesn’t know the direction from which he might be counterattacked if he stands still. If he moves, he doesn’t know if he is moving into an ambush by a defender who is already lying in wait. The only thing the attacker knows is that he is running out of time.
In this particular case, the female defender knew everything about the room where the attacker entered the building. She knew because it was her classroom. After she entered the room, the defender knew exactly where to hide as she “shot” her attacker. We were wearing long shirts, long pants, and a face shield. Even layered up that way, rubber bullets still hurt.
This female defender acted faster than the attacker could react. That isn’t a matter of strength, but of training and determination. She recognized what to do and she did it immediately. Our defender won because she was nearby and responded to the attacker on campus within seconds.
Mass-murderers can’t identify everyone who might stop them. The uniformed police officer probably has more experience carrying a gun, but the uniform makes him a very recognizable symbol of authority. The uniform makes him an obvious target. The uniformed School Resource Officer deters an attack on campus until the murderer decides to shoot him first.
As one School Resource Officer said, ‘It gets a little lonely out there without armed staff behind you.’
Mass-murderers may be cowardly psychopaths, but they are not stupid. Mass-murderers deliberately select unarmed victims. These murderers have never attacked a school that publicly announced its safety plan of armed school staff.
That combination of training and determination exhibited by the armed school teacher sounds like an unstoppable combination to protect our children. Unfortunately, it has a hidden weakness. Armed school staff carry with them a tragic vulnerability that leaves our children at risk.
These first responders on campus are enormously more effective if they are anonymous. They can’t tell the parents about what they learned in their class on armed defense and trauma care. They can’t stand up at the school board meeting and speak in favor of protecting our kids. By volunteering to be a first responder at school, these staff members give up the chance to speak about defending their kids.
Think about that for a moment. The upset parent who thinks guns are icky can speak up at the school board meeting. The team of people who studied and trained to save lives has to remain silent.
We live in an imperfect world. Fortunately, you can make it better.
Defending our children depends on what you are willing to do. You have to be the voice that speaks up. It is your voice who has to tell the school board that calling 911 and waiting ten minutes while kids die is not good enough. You have to ask the school board to start saving lives before the police and EMTs arrive.
I know I am asking a lot. It isn’t easy to stand up and speak in public. Nor is it isn’t easy for the school staff member to move toward an attacker who wants to kill innocent children. We need both. Our kids need both.
The School Resource Officer working with armed staff is far more effective than the SRO acting alone. Likewise, your voice and the voice of your neighbors can change minds on your school board. You can change minds at city hall, and at the sheriff’s office.
It doesn’t matter how big you are. It matters that you are willing to act. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
This article was originally posted at the Slowfacts blog and is reposted with permission.