May 28th, 2022 Opinions

School Shooters: Guns aren’t the issue nor THE solution

“To stop school shooters we need to ban guns” we have heard this statement before but do you really think that someone who has been bullied or harassed and/or is mentally ill and wants revenge will not commit serious acts of violence whether guns are available or not?

So what can we do? Many of the solutions or opinions I have seen are heavily biased towards guns/security or mental health and passive security or banning guns. Officials in Georgia and Virginia deployed additional officers to schools as a precaution, and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas suggested putting more armed police officers in schools. New York City, the nation’s largest school district, said it would consider locking school doors after students arrive for the day. Los Angeles said it would reduce entry points for schools. All those ideas are great ideas, but we need to provide actual security and not just knee-jerk reactions to appease the press and parents. I am here to offer my opinion on what changes can actually benefit our children.

Hard Targets

I believe that over the years schools have made great strides in taking measures against active shooters. However, most of the measures taken are passive and do not make the school a hard target. Before we delve any further, let us discuss the difference between a hard target vs. a soft target. A soft target is a person/area/building that due to their actions and/or lack of appropriate protective measures and thus represents an easy target. For example, someone who leaves their wallet/purse/phone sitting on a table represents an easy target for any would-be thieves. 

A hard target is a person/area/building that, due to their actions and/or appropriate protective measures, is able to minimize existing risks and thus represents an unattractive target. For example, someone with a trained protection dog taking money out of an ATM at night represents an unattractive target, no one wants to be bit by a dog. Does turning soft targets into hard targets prevent attacks? Absolutely, take a look at sports stadiums, various government buildings and airports which have all become hard targets and attacks are stopped before they could enter the main circle. Before we talk about how we can harden our schools lets take a look at Israel, while we cannot compare Israel to the US due to major differences in culture, threats, and policies, we can take a look at Israeli school security measures enacted after the 1974 massacre in Ma’alot by DFLP terrorists which left 31 dead and 70 injured. Israeli schools are now required to have tall fences, security cameras, only 1 gate open at a time and that gate is monitored by an armed security guard or in some cases there is a roving patrol and only those who have access codes can enter. What Israel effectively did with their schools is turn them into hard targets and “told” terrorists that attacking schools isn’t worth it.

In order to turn our schools into hard targets, we would have to enact a variety of different measures that include but aren’t limited to: Armed security watching limited entry points, proper fences, access control, remote lockdown methods, upgraded doors to classrooms, security cameras actively being monitored, metal detectors, trained scent dogs, allow those with a CCW to carry on school grounds, etc. Because 92% of averted school shooters and about 50% of school shooters are current students, the security measures need to be airtight.

Armed security engaging an active shooter in the hallways of a school should be a worst-case scenario and can be averted if we create concentric rings of security with the first layer (perimeter) of security starting at the parking lot/vehicular entrance. There should be a proper fence surrounding the perimeter of the school forcing people and vehicles to enter at specified locations, cameras with facial recognition and license plate readers can be placed at those entrances allowing security to monitor who enters school grounds. Currently many schools already use Raptor Visitor Management System, which scans visitor IDs and checks them against sex offender registries and lists of noncustodial parents, instead of beginning security in the school start it at the parking lot, a method that has worked wonderfully for Ben Gurion airport in Israel. The next layer of security (exterior) would be the exterior of the building which should have cameras exterior and interior, armed security with access controlled entry and 1 entry for anyone who is not an employee, obviously employees should be made aware that it is their duty to make sure the door shuts behind them, at the entrance there should be a visitor check in where security can run visitors through the Raptor Visitor Management System and other systems to keep the kids safe, metal detector and/or a scent trained dog, those who can present a CCW should be allowed to carry on campus. The last layer of security which I will refer to as “reaction” should be reinforced doors with remote lockdown features so the school can go into lockdown from a centralized command and police officers should have access control so they could open and close doors, armed guard/s who WILL respond to an active shooter, working PA system or another system to notify teachers of any updates, and training for students on how to react in an active shooter scenario. With perimeter and exterior layers of security a reaction to an active shooter is very unlikely as situations should be diffused before the shooter gets into the building, should the shooter get into the building an armed guard/s + command center relaying information from the cameras, + lockdown measures should quickly end an active shooter scenario.

Side note I have heard a lot of talk about arming teachers and I think that it should be an option if a teacher would like to carry and pass a qualification however forcing it upon them is an incredibly dumb idea, they are teachers, not security guards and they never signed up to carry or shoot active shooters, nor should it be ever required of a teacher to carry a gun. If a teacher wants to, they should be allowed to 

No matter how hard we harden schools, there will always be mentally ill, evil, or troubled people, so how do we go about fixing that?

Education and Help

A 2004 study by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education found that nearly three-quarters of school shooters had been bullied or harassed at school. However, according to ASV Database 2021, only 17% of averted school shooters were diagnosed with a mental illness. We also know that 92% of averted school shooters and about 50% of school shooters are current students. 83% of averted school shooters communicated to a 3rd party of an intent to do harm through an attack.

One of the biggest issues with identifying school shooters is that there is no clear profile of a potential school shooter. However, it is clear that most school shooters are troubled, angry, and want revenge, and we need to get them the help they need, the help that they are crying out for they want someone to notice them; they don’t want to feel the pain they are put through every day. Admittedly, I do not know what anti-bullying campaigns are in motion and if they work. But I do know 2 things; 1. bullying will never be stopped 2. most school shooters are the result of bullying/harassment. Obviously raising stronger more resilient kids would be the correct path and we should be teaching kids to stand up to their bullies; however that is a different topic. We need to educate teachers, school employees, students, peers, and parents about what signs they should be looking for in a potential school shooter, because if we can get them help before they commit to an attack, we can save lives and change minds. Every school should offer the ability to anonymously report a potential threat and bullying as potential school shooters almost always give clues (write journals, post to social media, tell someone, etc) to their planned attacks; this goes back to them wanting to be noticed. Every school or school district should have a carefully selected and well-trained public safety board that can help to enact proper measures and allow troubled students to get the help they need before they commit atrocious crimes. Evidence has shown that to just expel a student or throw them in jail will cause the troubled student to be even more vengeful, thereby increasing the risk of an attack. Watch this video to understand the pain a potential school shooter goes through.

With proper education and proper security we can make a change, let’s not make this about guns again and actually work to further promote the safety of our future.

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