Boots & Sabers

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Tag: School Carry

Meeting Force with Force

As I mentioned in my column earlier this week, allowing school staff members to arm themselves is not an untrodden path. Many schools are already doing it.

The laws of many states already provide that school boards or administrators may authorize specific staff members to be armed. In Colorado, we work to ensure such personnel are very well trained.

After the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the Buckeye Firearms Foundation in Ohio founded “FASTER Saves Lives,” a training program specifically designed for armed school staff. (That stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response.)

It has trained more than 1,300 Ohio school staffers in hundreds of schools in the past five years. In 2017, Coloradans for Civil Liberties brought FASTER training to their state. The Ohio and Colorado programs both raise private money to provide the school districts with training at no cost.

The key is meeting force with force as quickly as possible.

At least six school shootings have been halted by swift armed defenders: Pearl, Miss. (1997, assistant principal); Edinboro, Pa. (1998, restaurant owner hosting junior high school dance); Santee High School, Calif. (2001, off-duty officer dropping his child off at school); Appalachian School of Law, Va. (2002, law students with law enforcement background); Sullivan Central High School, Tenn. (2010, law enforcement officer), and Arapahoe High School, Colo. (2013, sheriff’s deputy on duty at the school).

Rural schools are typically the first to arm staff. That makes sense. They may be a half an hour or more from any possible law enforcement response to campus, and in any defensive situation, seconds count.

According to an analysis by Ron Borsch of the Southeast Area Law Enforcement Task Force in Ohio, for mass-casualty events using a firearm, one person is shot on average every 17 seconds.

Most, though not all, mass shooters kill themselves the moment they are confronted by an armed defender; that’s according to a study reported by the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato . The difference between an armed response that takes 30 seconds and one that takes five minutes is a matter of life and death.

Defending Our Kids

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

Once again we find ourselves searching for solutions in the wake of a mass killing at a school. It is the natural human reaction to want to do something about it and we all want the killing to end. The powerful impulse to “do something” is often the genesis of bad laws, or worse, tyranny, but that must not deter us from doing whatever is legal, ethical, and constitutional to decrease the likelihood of another massacre.

Mass killings are still the statistical outlier in America. The odds of being killed in such a mass shooting is dwarfed by the likelihood of being killed by a criminal or angry family member. According to FBI data, our nation has averaged about 23 deaths per year from mass shootings since 1982. While each mass shooting is shocking and tragic, you are more than twice as likely to be killed by bees or wasps as in a mass shooting. Still, while rare, mass killings appear to be on the rise and we must take reasonable measures to prevent them when possible, and mitigate the damage when they occur.

The root causes of the rise of mass killings are complex. Our culture is steeped in violent movies and video games; devoid of moral absolutism; hostile to God and blessings of salvation; detached from the real world of human interaction; where kids grow up isolated and angry in a sea of digital and artificial surrogates for love, friendship, and emotional connections. It is a toxic brew that — especially when mixed with mental illness and lax law enforcement — fertilizes evil. But fixing the culture is hard. In the meantime, we must look to preserve the footings of individual liberty while providing for our security.

What can be done about reducing mass killings in our schools and elsewhere? Provide better mental health services? Install better security in our schools? Hire armed security officers to patrol our schools? See it and say it? Ensure that background checks for the purchase of weapons are thorough? Deal severely with people who are violent and unstable? Yes. All of the above.

Another measure we need to take is to allow schools to decide if and how they would allow teachers, parents, and staff to arm themselves.

There are some realities that we face as a nation when it comes to firearms. First, firearms are prevalent in our society and they are not going away. That is as it should be. We decided at the founding of this nation that an armed citizenry was necessary for the preservation of liberty and it is an ethic that is ingrained into the American heart. If anything, in the face of tragedy, Americans have shown that they prefer to lift restrictions on owning and carrying firearms for law-abiding folks instead of enacting further restrictions. Even if we repeal the 2nd Amendment tomorrow, 300 million guns aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Second, while we can and must take action to address the root causes of violence, we will never completely dig out those roots. They are at the very core of humanity. We are marked by a shadow of evil that cannot be completely eliminated absent the eradication of our species. As such, we must do as we have always done: hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Allowing school employees to arm themselves provides for that last desperate line of defense in the face of unthinkable violence. When faced by a lunatic with a gun, there are very few ways to escape the situation alive. Meeting force with force is sometimes the only, and best, option.

Implementing such a policy is complex. High schools are different from elementary schools. Rural schools are different from urban schools. Big schools are different from smaller schools. That is why the decisions about how a policy allowing teachers and staff to arm themselves must be left to local school districts and private school leaders.

But this is not untraveled ground. In Texas, for example, 172 school districts already allow staff and/or school board members to carry firearms on school grounds. And according to the Giffords Law Center, nine states already allow concealed carry holders to carry on school grounds in some or all situations. Those are not the schools where mass shootings are on the rise.

Not every, or even most, school employees would want to accept the responsibility of providing an armed defense, but some would. They deserve to have that choice. They deserve to have a safer workplace. Even the best police forces are minutes away when seconds count.

At the very least, the fact that some school employees might be armed serves as a deterrent to wouldbe killers. There is a reason why mass murderers tend to target gunfree zones. They may be evil, but they aren’t stupid. The threat of an immediate armed response denies them the time to inflict maximum carnage.

We will never be able to completely eliminate the threat of violence in our schools. That is precisely why we must provide our school teachers and staff with all of the tools available to protect themselves and our children. As we have learned after almost every school shooting in the past thirty years, the violence only stops when it is met with equal force. The quicker that happens, the fewer people get shot. It is just that simple.

Kremer Introduces Private School Carry Act

This has almost no chance of passing this year since the legislative session is pretty much over, but I support this bill.

In response to the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, State Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, has introduced a bill that would allow licensed concealed carry holders to bring weapons into private schools, if the school enacts a policy allowing it.

The deadline to co-sponsor the Private School Carry Act was noon Friday.

In a co-sponsorship memo, Kremer said, “We hope this program will gain popularity for expansion into all public schools statewide.”

The thinking behind the bill is that a shooter who is aware of a school with armed people in it will bypass it for another school.

One of the candidates running to replace Kremer also supports it:

Stockbridge – Former Campaign Manager and Legislative Intern for Rep. Kremer, Ty Bodden, comes out in support of Kremer’s Private School Carry Act. This bill gives private schools the option to arm their teachers with guns to protect their students. The bill is meant to be a pilot program, starting in private schools and could eventually lead to being enacted in our public schools as well. “This bill and any future bill gives power to the schools and the school boards. They know what is best for their students and can decide what is best for their classroom safety. If schools do not want their teachers having guns, they do not have to have them, but it at least gives them the option,” states Bodden. The idea of arming teacher is not a new concept. In Ohio, decisions about whether to allow guns in schools are up to school boards in the more than 600 districts across the state. Many districts voluntarily acknowledge the presence of guns on campus, but only the staff knows who has access to them. Other districts have not said anything at all about their policies. The decision is up to each individual school. Attorney General, Brad Schimel, has also come out in support of legislation like this.

Bodden also supports the recently passed Assembly Bill that creates a grant program to help schools pay for armed guards. “These are the pieces of legislation that can lead to real safety change when it comes to protecting our students and schools,” Bodden said. The bill also makes purchasing a gun for someone prohibited from possessing one a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison instead of the four years the state has now. “More of a discussion needs to be had in regards to protecting Wisconsin students and I look forward to having those discussions.”

Protecting Our Kids

One subject that I’m a little surprised hasn’t been more of an issue in the race for the West Bend School Board is the issue of allowing firearms in our schools. One of the candidates, Tonnie Schmidt, is the co-owner of Delta Defense, which has been incredibly active in promoting more progressive and realistic means of defending out schools.

Last year I attended a forum sponsored by Delta Defense where the panelists discussed the varying benefits and worries about allowing firearms into our schools. The basic premise is that gun-free zones are targets for deranged lunatics. A more rational response is to allow people the defend themselves just like they can across the street from the school. That might mean just allowing anyone who is already licensed to carry a weapon to also do so in schools. It might mean just allowing willing teachers and staff to be armed. It might mean some other flavor of armed deterrence and defense. The point is that there is no rational basis for not allowing adults to protect themselves and our kids with access to lethal force should the worst happen. As I said in my column about this subject:

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.

Perhaps if Schmidt is elected to the School Board, this is an issue she could champion. Many of us would be 100% behind her if she did.

It’s Time for School Carry

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.

School Carry Forum

Yesterday the USCCA hosted a forum at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School regarding the prospect of allowing people to carry firearms in private schools. It was an exceedingly interesting discussion that covered a lot of angles.

The impetus for the forum is that Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) will be reintroducing a bill next session to allow private schools to permit firearms in their schools. The panel was moderated by Katrina Cravy, former TV reporter. On the panel were KML Superintendent David Bartelt, teacher Michael Maas, Grafton Police Sargent Sean Fuerstenberg, Washington County Sheriff Dale Schmidt, USCCA firearms trainer Kevin Michalowski, Delta Defense Director of Marketing Matt Fehlhaber, parent Laura Ganshow, and parent Scott Scriver.


The subject of the forum was specific to allowing firearms into private schools, but the subject of public schools was also addressed. According to Kremer, a companion bill for public schools will likely be offered at the same time as the one for private schools. The reason for separating them is primarily political. There is fairly broad support for allowing private schools to do this, but the public schools have a well-funded and organized opposition in the form of the unions that will oppose Republican bills just because they are written by Republicans. The Republicans in the legislature want to make progress on this issue. Hopefully they will be able to pass both bills, but even if they only pass the one for private schools, it is progress. The issues facing private and public schools are largely the same, however, so the discussion was apropos to both.

The forum was mostly driven by audience questions with people coming up to the microphones to make statements and ask questions. The discussion can be broken down into three major sections. Bear in mind that any of these issues would only be applicable if an individual school decides to permit firearms on campus.

First, there is the issue of allowing CCW on campuses. Federal law does not prohibit this, but state law does. As the law is now, a licensed concealed carry holder commits a crime to even carry their weapon in their cars onto campus – much less into the buildings. Interestingly, this subject area was probably discussed the least. There was broad agreement that the law needs to be corrected to allow licensed CCW parents to carry on campuses. One former and one current police officer even commented that is is more dangerous to have people unholster their weapons to store them rather than just letting them carry as usual. Most accidental discharges happen during the administrative handling of a weapon – not when holstered or in active use. Also discussed was the fact that several other states already allow schools to decide whether or not to allow firearms on campus and those states haven’t had any negative consequences.

The second section was a lively discussion around allowing trained teachers and staff members to be armed. Michael Maas, one of the teachers on the panel, said that when they do a lock down drill, he arms himself with a baseball bat because that is all he is allowed to do. He lamented the fact that he is charged with protecting his students as if they were his own kids and he did not think he could adequately do that with a bat.

The discussion ranged from what kind of training could and would be given to teachers who chose to arm themselves and what the mechanics of an armed classroom would look like. For example, there are very good biometric gun safes that could be bolted into a desk drawer so that a teacher would not have to wear a firearm the entire time. One parent stood up and said that he hated the fact that his kids were not as safe as they could be because Wisconsin mandates that schools remain soft targets. Someone mentioned that police response was great, but never good enough. The statistics of school shooting show that most of the killings happened within the first 10 minutes. Sheriff Schmidt shared that even when the police can be on site within a few minutes, they still have a large building with multiple entrances, hundreds of people, and an unknown threat to contend with. He said that the reality is that the most effective protection must come from within the school.

The third main topic discussion revolved around how schools respond to threats in general and how that response has, and should, evolve. Right now, the prevailing threat response is the lock down. Everything is locked and kids are instructed to stay still and hide. A few schools are starting to use a technique that instructs kids to scatter and run from the school. The good part of that is that it disperses the target opportunities for the killer, but the bad part is that it is difficult to manage everyone and ensure they are safe.

Some people advocated using the Department of Homeland Security’s “Run, Hide, Fight” protocol in schools. Instead of just hiding, staff and kids would be taught to still hunker down in their rooms, but to spread out and arm themselves with whatever is available like books, chairs, whatever, to throw at the killer if they enter the room. Also discussed was ALICE, another active shooter response methodology. There was broad agreement that the simple lock down was not sufficient. Some folks cited the fact that in some cases, all the lock down did was provide a convenient place for the killer to find a lot of people to kill at once.

Also interesting was how school responses have changed over the years and some of the challenges that schools face. For example, in the past, the students and staff were instructed on where to go in an active shooter event just like a fire drill and were issued cryptic, coded messages over the P.A. to tell them what to do. This makes sense if the killer is from outside of the school, but no sense at all if the killer is one of the students who would know the response. That methodology serves to tell student killer exactly where to go find everyone in one place after the attack starts and the killer knows the “code” used over the P.A. The updated methodology is to instruct staff on what to do, but not tell students unless it happens. Also, instructions on the P.A. are to be clear and precise like, “the shooter is in the cafeteria.”

They also discussed how the physical layout of a school greatly impacts the effectiveness of a response. For example, one audience member said that his kids used to go to an open concept school that did not have doors. He told his kids to leave the building and run into the nearby woods if something happened. A teacher said that his school had solid doors and had installed special locks that that shove a steel bar into the floor and can only be unlocked from the outside with a special tool. In some schools, the only way for people to leave the building would be to go through the halls, which might be a bad idea with an active shooter. Some schools have gates than can be easily deployed to block off entire hallways. Essentially, the consensus was that a school’s specific response should be tailored to the specific school, but that a more active response than a simple lock down was required. As one person said, a kids hasn’t died in a school fire in 50 years, but we still have monthly fire drills and teach stop, drop, and roll. We should spend at least as much time and effort teaching kids how to respond to an active shooter threat.

Overall, it was a very good forum that provided a ton of information. I look forward to more sensible laws regarding firearms in schools.



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