Saving Our Children From Mass Murderers



By Charles Heller, Executive Director JPFO. © 2012.

The recent murders of 26 people in Newtown Connecticut, 20 of them children, have left us wondering what can be done to change the outcome of such events. Some suggest that limiting magazine capacity would go a long way towards lessening the carnage. Those that know anything about guns understand the fallacy of that statement.

First, there are millions of full capacity magazines on the market. It would take years to dry up the supply. Second, even the current talk of such a limitation drives the market to a frenzy of purchasing. It literally floods the populace with supply. Third, banning or treating these guns and magazines like machine guns, which are registered and highly taxed, would take a large portion of that existing supply, and force it into the black market.

In short, limiting the availability of America's most popular "sport-utility rifle," would have the perverse effect of causing more supply of it to the criminal marketplace, and make criminals out of those who have these guns and have committed no crime with them. It would be the epitome of punishing the innocent for the acts of the guilty.

Fifth, there are a lot of gun owners who would see the banning of these guns or magazines as the last straw, and actively resist their confiscation.

Sixth, Connecticut already has some very restrictive gun laws. They did not help, nor has a gun law ever helped to protect anyone. All they have ever done is disarm the victims.

The choice here is between the opportunistic theft of our rights by people who will "not let any crisis go to waste," and a debate on how to really mitigate the harm done to us my mass killers. First we must look at what these people are striving for when they commit their heinous acts.

Col. Dave Grossman

Former United States Military Academy Professor Col. Dave Grossman, author of "On Killing," and "On Combat," (which are required reading at service academies) points out that what these people want, is notoriety. They want to "strike out," at a society which they feel has wronged them, and do it in such a way that their names are remembered. As Grossman says, "they do not fear death. They fear failure." What is "failure?" It is not achieving notoriety for their acts. In essence, it is their 15 minutes of fame. If we do not see this, Grossman points out that we are in denial.

Think of it – we know the names of the man who killed John Lennon, shot President Reagan, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. More than one hundred years later, we remember the name of the man who shot President McKinley, and President Lincoln. We know the names of these people because they are published. Let me tell you the first thing we could do, and do it tomorrow: have a conference at the White House, and have the President ask all major and minor media, to stop publishing the names of the killers. That would take away a major incentive that many of these killers, especially the ones who did their evil at Columbine, from achieving their objective. As Col. Grossman says, "they do not fear death, they fear failure." It would be a major failure for them to die in obscurity.

"Ah, but the public has a right to know," you might say. Yes, it does, and that right could be well served with a FOIA, or Freedom Of Information Act request. Any citizen who wanted to know the name of the killer, could do so. No new law would block the killer's name from being public, but no law is required for the media to simply agree not to print it. Far fetched? We do not generally print the name of rape victims in the media.

There have been many times in war and issues of national security, when the country has asked news outlets to refrain from printing sensitive information in the national interest. What is more in the "national interest," than protecting our children? It's not a rhetorical question – what could be more important?

Want an example The legendary Paul Harvey pioneered this tactic. He would announce the news when these terrible events took place, and then say, "the killer would want me to mention his name ...." And then go dead air for 3 – 4 seconds, and go to the next topic. It can be done ...

Next, we could do as we did with our airliners after September 11th, 2001, and harden the doors of our schools. There does not need to be a new law about this, simply a conference of school boards and labs to develop and adopt a standard, or a few standard designs.

From there, we could ask the makers of our leading technology companies, to design at no cost to the public, a system of cameras that are slaved to secure websites, so that school security personnel could be monitoring them via wireless device such as smart phones. They could be at any point on a campus, and observe what is going on at any other point. We have that same system be equipped with several panic buttons for every classroom, and a portable one for the teacher. If any one of those buttons gets pushed, it automatically puts the entire school into lockdown mode. The administrators will have keys to open any class, but a murderer could not shoot his way in easily, and the camera in the proximity of the attempted killer would show the school security personnel exactly where the perpetrator was.

Next, we address security people. We have tremendous resources of capable people in this country. They exist in retired military and police personnel. These are people who have experience and training at arms. Many, if asked, would volunteer. Most of them own guns, and could supply their own, thus obviating the need to provide such for them. All that need be done is issue to them, or require that they carry ammunition designed to minimize ricochets, such as "frangible" ammunition. This exists on the market today and is not rare or exotic.

A standardized curriculum of training already exists in most police departments to respond to emergencies such as the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Each school district can simply adopt that training curriculum, and run their security people, teachers who volunteer, and administrators who volunteer, through it at the same time as police officers that are in training. This would have minimal cost, and great benefit.

The next important step, in order to minimize the risk of mistaken identity shootings, is to have an electronic file of the people in each school who are authorized to carry weapons. That database is made available on the wireless net of each school. As a police officer approaches the school, he simply hits the "good guys" app on his phone, and he gets the visual images of those who are authorized to carry weapons. Police are trained in recognition of facial features. Their PDA or smart phone can also contain unlock codes for the locked down doors, allowing them entry into locked areas.

In addition to that, a secure website for security volunteers could contain a password that would tell each approaching officer that an armed defender was a "good guy," Recognition signals are something known to security people, and it would not be difficult, in training, to make sure that responding officers, school volunteers and armed defenders, knew who was who.

Once the security measures are in place, and volunteers are on duty, it is time to look at more long-term solutions. Some teachers, administrators, and staff, especially those with prior military or law enforcement experience, will have the ability and willingness to double as security for their own classrooms. There is already a provision in federal law, within 18 US Code, Section 922, for those with state issued concealed weapons permits, to lawfully be on the grounds of the school. Run those people through the same training as the retired law enforcement officers, get them concealed weapons permits, and make sure that each security person knows who else in the school is authorized to carry weapons, and you make it exceedingly difficult for a mass murderer to achieve his objective.

There are, of course, objections to this. Some will say that, "teachers don't want to be cops." While that is true, they are not functioning as cops. They are functioning more as lifeguards, and would not have any other law enforcement duties, other than protecting children. Of course, there would be no requirement for them to assume armed vigilance; only volunteers would do so. This is how it's done in Israel, and it is also the model, in part, for the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program, although deputizing teachers is certainly not the optimal solution.

Some people worry about where these weapons would be stored. They would not ever be "stored," anywhere, except on the person of the security volunteers, teachers, and authorized personnel. "Off body carry," should be strictly prohibited. The safest place for a gun is in the holster of the person carrying it. Appropriate holsters are available from a number of reputable manufacturers, which are secure and discrete. The students need never know that a person is carrying a gun – in fact it would be a breach of security for them to know, until such time as it might be deployed.

Some have asked about the "crossfire situation," when a defender engages the murder with return fire. One must ask the people that bring this up, which is the greater evil? Should we not embrace the risk of some injury, to prevent the death of children in the only possible way, once the shooting starts by someone committed to murder?

Practically speaking, there have not been any documented instances of civilians with a CCW permit, hitting a good guy while shooting at a bad guy. There are plenty of law enforcement incidences of that happening, but there are no civilian cases of it that are documentable. Most recently, 9 people were injured by police gunfire on the streets of Manhattan, as they engaged a killer who pointed a gun at them. Conversely, there is the recent mall shooting in Clackamas Washington, where a CCW permit holder drew and pointed his gun at a killer in the act, but did not fire because he saw an innocent person behind the killer. The killer saw the gun pointed at him, retreated to a stairwell, and killed himself. The truth is, that guns save many more lives than they end. This is a documented fact, based on the US Bureau of Justice Statistics published information on defensive gun uses in the United States.

Some might object to the cost of safety improvements in the schools. While these are valid concerns, there is a thing in many industries and professions know as a "standard of care." Each profession has a minimum standard of performance of the duties of office, no matter the position. The theory of "in loco parentis," requires teachers, administrators, and schools to do everything within their power to protect children. If it is within the power of a school to use up to and including deadly force to protect its charges, and it fails to do so, are they not failing the most basic standard of care?

This program needs to have a noble name. It should carry the name of a person who died trying to protect children. It should be known as the Dawn Hochsprung program for saving children.

The principal of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Dawn Hochsprung, is said to have died while charging the gunman. One must be tempted to ask, "If that were my child she was trying to protect, would I want her to have the best tool possible for stopping a madman?

The answer to that question points to your reason and your sanity, in this crazy world.

Charles Heller
Host, America Armed & Free Radio
AM 1030 KVOI Tucson
Executive Director,
Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership

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