Examining a year of fallout from Sandy Hook

With the release of the preliminary report on the Newtown massacre, we can assess what could and couldn’t have saved lives


It has been one year since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Just a few weeks ago, the Connecticut State Police released their preliminary report. From it, we can glean some information about that deadly day in Newtown.

We now know the killer was active for about 10 minutes — from the forced entry via gunfire until the suicide shot. The first officer arrived 3:21 minutes after the dispatch broadcast and the next two arrived about 13 seconds later, and shots were still being heard from inside the school. 

The first police entry into the school happened 5:47 minutes after the arrival of the first officer and 4:44 minutes after the last shot was heard.

Version 2.0 Rapid Deployment/Active Shooter Response
Rapid Deployment training has morphed into Version 2.0, which encourages entry by the first arriving officer. Even if the first arriving officer had made immediate entry at Sandy Hook Elementary, there was only a 1:03 minute window of opportunity to save any lives before the suicide shot. I doubt even RoboCop could have made entry, located the killer, and neutralized him in time to save any lives. The most deadly gap in this incident was the 5+ minute delay in the 911 center receiving notification of the attack.

The analysis suggests little we can do to improve the lifesaving potential of Version 2.0 Rapid Deployment/Active Shooter Response tactics. However, reducing the time before notification to the 911 center could have made a significant difference at Sandy Hook Elementary (and several previous active shooter events).

Hot-Button Issues
As I followed the unfolding news of this event live on December 14 last year, I knew instantly this one would be different ... this twisted little bastard killed first graders — our most precious lambs! 

Three political hot buttons were eventually pushed by the media in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre: gun control, mental health reporting, and violent video gaming. Let’s examine each.

1.) Gun Control
Those in favor of gun control threw almost everything they had into this fight after Sandy Hook, but they only managed a few minor restrictions, notably magazine capacity limits in New York and Colorado. However, two legislators in Colorado have since been recalled, and New York’s ill-conceived statute may prove almost impossible to enforce. In my opinion, the pro-gun rebound effect may prove the most significant long-term. 

Whether you love or hate the National Rifle Association’s Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, his statement rings with more truth than his opponents’: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” 

After Sandy Hook, more school districts are open to placing armed “sheepdogs” in their schools.

2.) Mental Health Reporting
Savvy street cops need only a glance at Adam Lanza’s photograph to know he was a seriously disturbed young man. A few months after the Sandy Hook massacre, I posted a column dealing with police interaction with disturbed individuals. We have not seen involuntary commitment statutes change, but I’ve heard reports some jurisdictions are granting police officers a bit more latitude when they encounter the potentially dangerous individuals our society no longer institutionalizes. 

Lanza’s story is just another sad chapter in our desperate need to identify, constrain, and treat disturbed individuals.

3.) Violent Video Games
I posted another recent column that deeply offended many cops who are avid video gamers

I’ll risk the feedback attacks again: We have — with certainty — long known about the correlation between violent video games and active shooters. 

Playing violent video games does not make active shooters. However, virtually every active shooter in recent history — all around the world — has been an avid gamer. For that tiny fraction of ‘one-percenters’ in society who might someday snap and turn active shooter, the games may help them overcome their inherent timidity and mentally desensitize themselves for the slaughter of their fellow man. 

We must explore these games’ effects on active shooters and perhaps learn something important from the analysis. 

Each killer has studied previous attacks and wants to log the highest score in this deadly “game.”

It can get worse than 20 dead grade-school children plus six adults. I sadly predict even worse to come.

About the author

Dick Fairburn has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience in both Illinois and Wyoming, working patrol, investigations and administrative assignments. Dick has also served as a Criminal Intelligence Analyst and as the Section Chief of a major academy's Firearms Training Unit and Critical Incident training program. He has a B.S. in Law Enforcement Administration from Western Illinois University and was the Valedictorian of his recruit class at the Illinois State Police Academy. He has published more than 100 feature articles and two books: Police Rifles and Building a Better Gunfighter.

Contact Richard Fairburn

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