My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones in the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., to teachers grieving across the nation, and to the Sandy Hook (Conn.) firefighters who worked the scene — and likely will be scarred for life by the horrific images of dead children and schoolteachers.
The incident in Newtown was the seventh mass shooting in 2012 and the fifth mass school shooting since Columbine in 1999. Many blame the availability of semi-automatic weapons for the increase in such incidents; others say video games and movie violence devalue life. Whatever the cause, the nation can’t ignore the problem — and first-responder agencies must prepare their department and personnel for more of these events.
First responders can prepare for the response and aftermath, but can an armed shooter in a school be stopped prior to devastation? In a letter to the media, Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Ore.) today suggested that what fails to stop a mass shooting is a lack of armed personnel inside a school. He also said that while training in classroom lock-down techniques is valuable, it also is passive and fails to protect the children and adults who continue to be murdered before the police arrive. This was the sad truth at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Yet, a police officer in every school is not the answer, as he or she would be the first target of a shooter and the cost would be prohibitive for most school districts, Richardson wrote. Instead, Richardson advocates a cadre of Campus Responders, two or three responsible adult volunteers in every school (administrators, staff members, teachers or members of the community, such as retired law-enforcement, peace officers or military personnel) who obtain additional training and regular practice in the use of firearms. Each Campus Responder would have a firearm concealed on their person or locked and concealed in a secure metal gun box bolted in their desks.
“Having armed and trained personnel in every school would enable immediate response with lethal force if and when the lives of our children and teachers were endangered by a mass murderer,” he wrote.
School district employees with prior military or law-enforcement experience would be the initial candidates for the voluntary assignment. No one outside of school nor the district administration would know the identity of these volunteers.
As last week’s tragedy reminds us all, police and fire show up after the carnage. Their role is to count the dead and clean up the scene — not necessarily to save lives. Something else needs to be done, without trying to ban all weapons or try to fight the culture of violent video games (still, I believe, smart parents realize how unhealthy these video games are for young minds).
We have to come to terms with the new, cultural norm of mass shootings and high death tolls. So why not deploy these Campus Responders? Do you have a better idea?
Tell us in the comment box below.