First and foremost, I feel extreme sadness for the victims and 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 is that reactions to these types of situations are usually emotionally driven and do not have basis in fact or logic. I also trained security forces for the Army that secure our nuclear weapons — I know a bit about protecting things.
The Facts on Firearms
Let’s take a look at a few facts so we are dealing in the realm of logic. First — evil exists in the world. There has always been, and will always be, people that have some reason to hate their fellow humans. 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?
Looking to the FBI and the Department of Justice, we find statistics that tell us the factual truth. Peaking in 1993, murder in the United States has since gone down by over 40 percent. But that doesn’t seem right. The news and social media 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.” In reality, these things have been going on for decades. But with the media today, it seems 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 100,000 people in the US went from 747.1 in 1993, to 372.6 in 2015. That is a drop of over 50 percent! 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 over 76 percent! But if you listen to the news and other sources, you would never know this.
Next, lets talk about guns. Are they 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 per year. That is criminal murders, not suicides (firearms account for only 6 percent of suicide attempts) or defensive uses of firearms. Around 13,000 murders out of a country of 350,000,000 people is actually pretty darn good. Of course, if you are one of the victims or a family member of a victim it is not nor will it ever be, but you are more likely to die from other common causes than actually being shot to death with a firearm.
Following any mass shooting, the focus of Congress and numerous other State Legislators is the inevitable discussion of banning assault rifles. So, just how many people are killed with these “high powered killing machines”? The FBI and DOJ documented that 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 of a building. Pistols are used far more than rifles or shotguns while more people are murdered by hands, feet, and knives than assault rifles.
What can be Done to Prevent or Lessen the Impact of Mass Murderers?
First, let’s look at the causes for some of these events such as bullying, terrorism, workplace violence, mental illness, and others. But those things are already being considered. Could we do better trying to find and screen those types of people? Of course.
In reality, there are three things that 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, design, and put in place that physically make it harder for something like this to happen. In the military, we used electronically monitored fences and vault like bunkers to secure our nation’s nuclear weapons (among other things of course).
I have heard metal detectors being mentioned as a potential security measure. Did you know that to build a new school to ‘Fire Prevention’ standards it adds millions to the cost of every school? When was the last time you’ve heard of 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 improvements. Physical barriers can be utilized to stop bullets such as bullet resistant/proof glass as well as steel core classroom doors as well as doors that can be locked remotely from an office. Cameras and microphones placed throughout the school can also help limit access to stop or lessen the carnage. Metal detectors are great, but how do you funnel 3,000 students through them and into the school each morning without taking hours?
The bottom line is that it takes money. That is the killer of these suggestions most of the time. It costs 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 — 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? When they’re confronted with a deadly threat, they have the means to stop it.
So, how would we get more good guys to put in place? 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 screened and trained by local law enforcement. Having additional armed, trained personnel at the school might not only lessen the carnage if something happens, it may also act as a deterrent if the future murderer knew that there was a dozen trained armed officers working there.
Most mass murderers are cowards and kill themselves when confronted by an armed response. Allowing staff and teachers who are concealed carry licensed to be allowed to carry in the school if they wanted to could also help. One teacher recently told me: “I would die to protect my kids, but I would rather see the bad guy die.” Words well spoken.
Campus carry would be a good way to solve college campus mass murders. 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 at the last few years where college shootings have happened, they were almost all at “gun free zones”. Those places where staff and students of colleges are allowed to carry do not seem to have these mass murders. Why is that? I think it’s fear of getting shot on the part of the murderer.
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, six times more law abiding. So, why can they not be trusted everywhere to carry? In fact, it again has been proven that there are times a licensed concealed carrier has saved lives, and some of those are my brothers and sisters in blue. End all gun-free zones for licensed firearms carriers.
So, what about an incentive that urges institutions, businesses, and others to add security that allow licensed carry on their premises? Pass legislation making them liable for the patrons that visit them if they do not make additional security measurements to protect them.
Train People and Make It Easier to Report Suspicious Behavior
Educate our children and adults on what to look for and who to report. The “see something, say something” mantra 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. They 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 to be cleared and the information disposed of when it is found to be nothing of importance.
What We Shouldn’t Do
Let’s talk reality. It is not possible to take away firearms from those law abiding citizens of this country. Confiscation is not physically or logistically possible, nor would it be Constitutional — let’s stop talking about it.
We should not waste our or our government’s time on passing more restrictive laws that will not stop a single mass murderer. Murder is already illegal and carries very stiff penalties. Mass murderers are not deterred by laws and any logical person can understand that enacting new ones will not 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 five years. I wouldn’t waste your time trying — there aren’t any.
So, if we want to stop or lessen the carnage, it’s time to 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!
Lastly, get rid of the completely ineffective ‘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.