Keeping kids safe on campus

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on February 18, 2018

Despite what some may believe, I really do care about keeping kids safe on campus. In the wake of the horrific massacre last week at Parkland, Fla.'s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead, I got the predictable query from KVEC 920 AM radio host Dave Congalton to come on his show and talk about what could be done to put a stop to these mass murders. The interview was originally scheduled for one hour, but because of the number of calls we were getting, I agreed to stay on for a second hour. You can listen to the audio (without commercials) here:

(Part 1)


(Part 2)

As I noted in the interview, I care about this issue for a couple very important reasons: 1) I'm not a monster, despite what some callers seem to think; and, 2) My wife is a high school teacher, and I occasionally substitute teach as well. I am on a high school campus, and the only thing protecting 2,000+ students from someone who would want to do them harm is a single, armed, school resource officer and signs saying that the campus is a gun-free zone. I have a lot more faith in the school resource officer to keep everyone safe than I do the signs, but on a campus as large as most high school campuses are, one armed officer is not enough. And I suspect that Paso Robles' two junior highs and its half-dozen elementary schools don't have armed officers at all.

The Status Quo

The San Luis Obispo Tribune ran a story Thursday on how local schools are prepared for the sort of attack that occurred in Florida, and at other schools too many times before that. The short answer is that you can expect the exact same thing to happen at local schools that happened in Florida.

I want to highlight the program in use at Paso Robles High School, the "A.L.I.C.E." program which stands for alert, lock down, inform, counter and evacuate. The meaning of most of these terms is obvious, except perhaps for "counter." My wife, a teacher, has informed me that "counter" is used if an active shooter manages to gain access to her room. She's supposed to throw staplers at him.

Here's how one parent describes the practical function of ALICE:

Image from a Facebook Post by Lisa Guthrie.

If that last sentence doesn't hit you in the guts, then I'm not sure what to say.

Dave's Solution, and mine

On Thursday's show, Congalton had offered as a stopgap measure, to prevent further attacks on schools this school year, that a half-dozen national guard troops be deployed to every elementary, middle and high school across the country. This show of force would deter attacks on school grounds, and if any attacks were to occur despite the presence of the national guard troops, the troops could quickly quash the attack long before it reached mass-casualty levels.

Dave's proposal is a reasonable one and it gives us, as a society, and our elected school boards, legislators and other public officials some time to take a long, hard look at how to protect our schools come next school year as it begins in Fall 2018.

My proposal addresses what happens then.

In California, we need to repeal AB424, authored by Assemblyman and fool Kevin McCarty, and signed into law last year by Gov. Jerry Brown. Prior to AB424, California law allowed local school district superintendents, or their designee, to allow teachers and staff—or even parents—with concealed carry permits to carry on campus.  To the surprise and horror of Democrats in Sacramento, approximately five school districts in the state, had decided to take advantage of that provision in the law to make their campuses less attractive targets for potential spree killers. Democrats believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that their "Gun Free Zone" signs are sufficient protection.

We also need to repeal SB707. Passed in 2015, the bill removed a decades-long exception that allowed persons with a concealed carry permit to have their firearm with them on campuses. Proponents of the law could point to not a single example of a concealed carrier ever having opened fire on students, staff or faculty on a campus anywhere in the state in history. Nor of a concealed carrier having a negligent discharge on a campus. Nor of a concealed carrier even brandishing a firearm on campus. Contrary to the belief that this makes schools safer, it does just the opposite.

Take the case of a woman who has received a concealed carry permit to protect herself and/or her children from credible threats of violence from an ex-husband or ex-boyfriend. Prior to SB707, the firearm had the same deterrent effect wherever the woman went. Post SB707, if the disgruntled ex- wants to get at the woman or her children, he knows where and when to attack when she is unarmed: if she's dropping off her kids at school, or if she's attending a college or university herself. As a law-abiding person (and concealed carry permit holders are the most law-abiding group of people nationwide—they commit crimes at a lower rate than even police), there's one place they won't have their firearm. That's where they're most likely to be attacked.

The gun control "solution"

There's a good portion of the American body politic who believe that the only way to stop school massacres—or more generally, massacres that occur anywhere—is to ban so-called assault weapons.

It won't work.

As I'll explain in more detail in a follow-up post I'm working on regarding some of the suggestions by newspaper editorial boards to end the violence, assault weapons bans won't work because it's cosmetic features that make a rifle an "assault weapon."

The Clinton-era assault weapons ban was in effect from 1995 to 2004, when Republicans in Congress declined to extend it.

The Columbine High School massacre occurred in 1999, right in the middle of the ban period, and the killers didn't use any weapons which would be considered "assault weapons" anyway.

The Virginia Tech killer used handguns, not an AR-15.

The worst school massacre in U.S. history was in 1927 in Bath, Pa. It left 44 dead and was accomplished by using a bomb.

France has very strict gun control laws, yet that didn't stop the Charlie Hebdo or Bataclan massacres. And even when it does work, you get things like the Nice truck attack that left 86 dead.

After every mass shooting, we hear repeated calls for "commonsense" gun laws. In every case, none of the proposed laws would've prevented the attack they're supposedly a response to.

Gun control cannot stop evil people intent on doing evil things. They'll find a way to get a gun. If not a gun, they'll make a bomb. If not a bomb, they'll use a truck.

Anti-gun nuts

And then there are people who come to this blog after a radio appearance and spam the comments of any post they can find, and then proceed to demonstrate just how crazy they are.

I have blood on my hands? Because I advocate for allowing Americans to defend themselves from those who would do them harm?

I've never suggested that "the problems in people's lives can be solved by owning and firing guns." If you're a battered wife whose ex-husband has threatened to kill you, then a gun is certainly a better solution than a restraining order.

If your problem is that you are thirsty, I recommend a glass of water.

At least I have the courage of my convictions that I put my name behind what I write, unlike "right man" who left the comment above, and eight others, over a two day period. For the record, "right man" appears to share an email address with David C. of Oceano.

[Editor's note: At his request, I have removed the last name of Mr. C from this post. Mr. C believes that it's OK to attack me and accuse me of all manner of evil from behind a thin veil of anonymity (if you want to be truly anonymous, it's probably not a good idea to use your real email address). However, he thinks that identifying him as one would a writer of a letter to the editor—name and city of residence (his email address was never a published, though he believes it was)—jeopardizes his safety. It's not like I get a bunch of Bernie Sanders supporters as readers.]

If I get bored, I might entertain my readers with additional comments from Mr. C., but I do want to answer his charge that my "foolish idea" of arming teachers is "unsupported by any scientific findings."

You want scientific findings, you get scientific findings

I give you the paper "Mitigating Active Shooter Impact; Analysis for Policy Options Based on Agent/Computer Based Modeling," from the April 2014 edition of the Journal of Emergency Management by J. Eric Dietz, Adam Kirby, Filipo Sharevski and Charles Anklam from Purdue University.

From the conclusion:

The results of the study show that to decrease the number of casualties, the response time must be reduced. The model data shows that the most efficient way to reduce response time is to have armed personnel present at the school who can engage the active shooter  before the police arrive. The effectiveness of this method can be optimized by having both armed resource officers and armed teachers or staff members with concealed weapons with which they can engage the shooter if he enters their room. The results of this data can therefore be interpreted as when teachers and faculty serve as a static deterrent or by not maneuvering on a shooter but rather just responding defensively, then the greater the number of teachers or faculty armed, therefore result in a greater number of reduced casualties.

And because charts are great, here are a couple.

This scatter plot shows the modeled results of an active shooter situation when police are the first responders to an attack.
This scatter plot shows the modeled results of an active shooter situation when the school has an armed resource officer and 10% of the faculty/staff possess a concealed weapon.

A few highlights:

  • When the shooter encountered an armed school resource officer and 10 percent of the faculty/staff were armed, every model showed the attack halted before police would even have arrived on scene.
  • The resource officer + 10% CCW resulted in zero casualties in many cases.
  • The maximum number of casualties, even in worst-case scenarios was just one third of what it was when waiting for police to arrive.
  • Note that under all these scenarios, the concealed weapon carrying teachers are not roaming the halls hunting down the active shooter, merely attacking him should he make it into the classroom.

Keeping kids safe on campus

We defend our airports and our courthouses with tightly controlled entrances and exits, metal detectors and a substantial number of armed officers. Why? Because they are targets for people with malice in their hearts.

Over the past few decades, our schools have become targets as well, yet too many elected officials believe their "Gun Free Zones" signs have some sort of mystical power enabling them to keep kids safe. They don't.

We need to arm teachers and staff and train them so they can competently handle a gun and respond to an active shooter situation. No one proposes forcing a gun on someone who doesn't want to use it. There are plenty of teachers and staff who are responsible enough and competent enough to do this. We can no longer keep our schools soft targets where any mentally ill individual can be sure to make a name for themselves for at least a few news cycles.


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February 2018



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