My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:
“An active response by potential victims affects the outcome.”
That is one conclusions in an extensive article for Concealed Carry Magazine by Michael Martin after he studied school shootings in the United States. It seems like an obvious conclusion, but it is one that is ignored in our schools.
An active response to an active shooter in a school may include running away, throwing things at the shooter, or barricading a door. One thing that it cannot include in most schools under current law is shooting back. That is one of the issues that folks discussed at a recent forum sponsored by the USCCA at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School.
Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) plans to reintroduce a bill in the next legislative session that would allow private schools to decide for themselves whether or not to allow firearms on school grounds. Kremer expects a sister bill to be introduced to allow the same thing for public schools, but his bill would only deal with private schools. A panel of eight members from law enforcement and education answered questions from the audience for two hours regarding the prospect of allowing firearms into schools and school safety in general.
One issue that Kremer’s bill would address would be to allow teachers and school staff to be armed in school. It would be left up to the school to determine the parameters, training requirements, etc. and to integrate an armed response into their overall school safety protocols.
Michael Mass, a teacher on the panel who is a licensed concealed carry permit holder and has completed some tactical training, shared that he takes his responsibility to care for the safety and wellbeing of the children in his charge very seriously. He said the baseball bat he armed himself during a lock down drill was insufficient if there was an actual active shooter.
Washington County Sheriff Dale Schmidt, who was on the panel, admitted that even if the police can respond quickly, they are faced with an unknown threat in a large building with several entrances. He said that the reality is that the most effective protection must come from inside the school.
It is clear that there is an evolving consensus regarding the most effective way to respond to an active shooter in a school. The old “lock down” drill is no longer considered adequate in most situations. For several of the most horrific school shootings in our history, all a lock down did was to congregate a lot of defenseless kids into one location for the killer to find. Instead of just a lock down, many modern school responses include fleeing the school, barricading, shouting, throwing, and, in some cases, an armed response. Anything that disrupts the fantasy playing out in a killer’s head is more effective than just crouching and waiting. The most effective response is going to vary by the physical layout of the school and other factors.
A second issue that Kremer’s bill seeks to address is the parents and other school visitors who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon in Wisconsin. Federal law does not outright prohibit firearms on school grounds, but state law does. Kremer’s bill would allow private schools to decide if they would allow people who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon to carry that weapon on school grounds.
There is no rational justification for continuing banning guns on school grounds. More than 300,000 Wisconsinites are licensed to carry a concealed weapon. Tens of thousands carry a weapon every day. Despite the dire warnings of opponents of the Second Amendment, Wisconsin has not turned into the Wild West and neither has any other state that permits concealed carry. In fact, many states saw a decrease in crime after concealed carry went into effect. The arguments are old and the evidence is overwhelming on the side of proponents of concealed carry that good Americans carrying firearms are a net benefit to society as a whole.
Banning the same people who safely carry a concealed weapon into grocery stores, banks, restaurants, parks and many other places from carrying that same weapon into a school is nonsensical. The ban is based on an irrational fear of guns that has been debunked everywhere else in society. And for many CCW parents, like me, it is ludicrous to disarm parents precisely at the time when they are with the people they most want to defend — their children.
Furthermore, as several people at the forum highlighted, it is actually less safe to require a person to unholster their weapon and store it before going to a school than it is for that same person to just carry it. Most firearm accidents occur during administrative handling of the weapon — not during the carrying or active use of it.
A child has not died in a fire at school in more than 50 years, yet we still do regular fire drills and evolve our responses to ensure that a child never does again die in a fire. We need to see the same vigilance and common sense responses to the threat of an active shooter in a school. Passing Kremer’s bill is a step in the right direction.