Columbine, Sandy Hook, the Pulse Night Club, Parkland High School, The Las Vegas Concert, and now two new entries in this never-ending list of horrific attacks, El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.
When will it end people ask?
What can we do?
Should we take away all the guns?
Should we arm everyone?
The answer you find appealing will say a lot about you, and each has its merits and distractions, but none is the be all and end all of an answer to this terrible phenomenon we see unfolding in the towns and cities⏤seemingly every week.
As a professional practitioner of safety and security including Active Shooter response and survival, I find the continuing attacks to be almost overwhelming to our people. In our schools, were I spend a lot of time trying to keep the kids and staff safe, I hear from young people that they don’t see the possibility of being involved in a school shooting as some remote event, but as an inevitability.
My own daughter graduated high school several years ago and she was the first student who said to me in reference to a school shooting; “Everyone knows it’s going to happen in our school we just don’t know when.”
What a terrible tragedy for an entire generation to live with. In reality, while school shootings are terrifying, the chance of you personally getting involved in an active shooter incident is actually much greater outside of our vulnerable schools. The difference is that when it happens in a school it is especially heartbreaking because they are innocent kids and it grabs our attention.
The events of the last few days, the Active Shooter events in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, reveal the truth to the statistics quite clearly, in modern day America no place is safe and we must be aware of the danger and prepare to respond appropriately.
That is a hell of a thing to live with for all of us. We see attacks in our schools, religious facilities, restaurants, shopping centers, movie theaters, concerts and the deadliest places of all, our workplaces. It can almost be too much to think about.
In our schools I see a trend to try and improve the safety and security of the buildings; districts hire people like me to come in and conduct Threat Assessments to uncover any security gaps in their profile so we can help close them and improve the chances of surviving an attack. This is a positive, but the truth is not every district does this. The don’t have the money or the most dangerous belief of all, “It will never happen here” so they put it off and hope for the best.
Listen closely schools, businesses and everyone else; “HOPE IS NOT A TACTIC”. We must act and act now because the next horrible event is only days or minutes away.
Businesses are even worse when it comes to creating a secure environment, I hear that there is no ROI to security training or planning. I say wrong. A safe workplace is an ROI. One violent event can ruin the lives of your employees and your business all in one 10-minute period. Businesses must do more.
So, if we must act now what does that mean? How do we act?
Until now⏤we have seen these events as random, though increasingly regular. Our response has been shock at each new attack, but if it wasn’t our home town, our kids school, or our workplace, it was a bad news story, a heart breaking deviation from our day, but we them move on to our own busy lives. The back to back attacks in El Paso and Dayton should be a clarion call to all of us that it is time to change the paradigm⏤time to change the thinking.
First, we must address the potential action we can take⏤the biggest is the removal of guns from our society. This response is the knee jerk reaction of many on the left. But we must ask would that solve the problem? If it would⏤shouldn’t we do it and save countless people?
This is a powder keg question and we can’t really discuss it because there are both legitimate and hidden agendas in the question. In reality I don’t think confiscating all the guns would stop the evil that is causing this phenomenon. It is bigger than the gun. We see in other countries where guns are banned that killers will use knife or bomb attacks to do their dirty work. Next is the fact that, and this is the hard part to talk about, while each of these attacks is devastating to the individuals and their families and communities, and I don’t intend to minimize the pain and suffering of those affected, there are only about 20 to 30 events each year in a country our size with 350 Million people.
The number of people killed is shockingly high, over a hundred per year, but….
We lose that many people every year in many of our cities due to crime and no one bats an eye.
We lose that many police officers every year to criminal violence and we see no outrage.
These facts can be used to tag on to the idea if there were no guns then all those people would be alive so let’s get rid of the guns⏤yet we must ask “Will taking the guns of everyone for the actions of 20 or 30 people be worth changing our culture of self-defense and one of the foundational Constitutional rights we were founded on?”
If we continue on the disarming of America line logic⏤wouldn’t it be smart and reasonable to save all of the lives lost in Chicago and Baltimore by conducting random street stops in high crime areas and confiscating the illegal guns that cause the deaths there instead of disarming the entire population of Maryland or Illinois?
There are answers, but they are hard to do, a lot of it depends on where you stand on other issues. Disarming America to prevent 20-30 incidents is not the answer no matter how terrible those incidents are for a few simple reasons, first it is disproportional, look at the number of incidents where a legal gun owner protects themselves and their families from crime; and they number in the hundreds of thousands, we just don’t talk about them. Should these citizens be rendered impotent for the acts of a few? This is why this topic is hard to discuss, it makes us look at things calmly and rationally, but the emotion of these events can lead us to poor decisions and bad choices.
Next, the evil and mental illness that causes these events in many cases is not being addressed; a person who wants to commit mass murder will find another way. And finally, how would we actually go about disarming the nation?
Would we go door to door? Would we request compliance? What about those who don’t comply⏤do we forcibly search their homes? All of this is not really possible. And for those who say it would be possible and would advocate the forced removal of weapons, I would guess these are the same people who will not abide the same tactics in our cities to protect the innocent people who must live under some very dangerous conditions. In other words, it can, and would become political and be used to further specific agendas.
What then can we do?
I would stop every active shooter if I knew when and where they were to occur, but no one does. I suffer great pain each time I hear of another shooting and the innocent lives lost and that emotional response pushes me towards the inappropriate solution of gun confiscations as the simple answer, but it is not an answer at all. It is disproportionate.
We need mental health reform and we need to create a way to intervene before these people kill us. In almost every case of a school shooting or workplace shooting or mall shooting, the killer has said and done things that people knew about that gave cause for concern. But we don’t know how to react.
We have laws and practices that go back to a time before these mass shootings, to a time when if a person made a threat they actually had to do something before we could take any action.
This needs to change, but the change will not be easy. The things we need to do will require us to consider the Constitutional ramifications of the actions. How do we require someone to seek mental health treatment if they haven’t done anything, maybe they just said some crazy stuff? This is where politics will intrude again depending on who and where the interventions are needed. The politics of the change will delay our ability to prevent the violence and that will kill more of us. This leaves us with unrealistic and inappropriate “Gun“ debate that solves nothing and only adds to the cloud around the topic.
I teach schools and businesses to have trained teams of staff members that can react to a threat be it written, verbal, social media or rumor so they can intervene before the bullets start flying when there is a chance to prevent the violence.
We need to see these mass shootings for what they are, a symptom of human weakness, mental disease and our inability to talk about these things rationally.
Taking guns is not the answer, that’s politically driven and emotionally driven. If we are ever to make progress and slow or stop these murderous rampages, we will need to look to recognizing the signs of potential violence in a person and intervening before people die. We need to address the laws we have and how we view mental illness, and individual actions. This concept is the only real answer to preventing a future El Paso, Dayton, Columbine or Sandy Hook massacre. Image: The El Paso Times via AP