06/01/2007

Street Survival Insights: Learning from Virginia Tech - Arming Those Who Protect Our Schools

By Dave Smith

Thirty-three dead at Virginia Tech, many more injured…the numbers are staggering. However, the naiveté of the news analysts and commentators pale next to the simple truth that this could be any school in any town. And, in too many places, those entrusted to defend our children and students have been left unarmed.

In the hours following this shooting, comments ran the gamut from calls for additional laws to the strident whining of talking heads. An intelligent being suddenly arriving on Earth for the first time would think that this is the most horrible, novel and unimaginable event that could have ever happened on this gentle planet!  Imagine their shock as they find it to be only the most recent in a  long history of terrible violence aimed at innocent students in public and private schools everywhere.

A Simple Truth
There may come a time in any one of these schools where the guardians of these innocents may have to defend them from this type of horrific violence. That moment may be the one single point in time when the violence might be stopped. 

The Bottom Line
The violence will have to be stopped with like force, and in too many campuses and school systems the defenders (the students’ protectors) have no deadly force because they carry no firearms.

I just spoke to some School District Police Officers at a Street Survival® Seminar who are required to lock their firearms in their cars during school hours and can arm themselves only after classes let out. In many other school districts around this country, the commissioned officers who work for the schools or colleges are not even allowed to carry firearms!  Many times, this includes School Resource Officers who carry firearms everywhere else to protect the community. 

Often, in these districts, unarmed officers are disarming armed students! Not once or twice a semester, but on a regular basis. Even with this kind of documentation, school administrators continue to deny arms to those who stand between evil and innocence!

Columbine was not the first, and Virginia Tech will not be the last terrible act against students and teachers. We have to wonder when the school administrators will finally learn that sometimes violence can and must be stopped with like violence.  No amount of empathy or goodwill stops such a threat. The only thing that works is force-against-force. Again, this is no new lesson to our species, only a continuation of the eternal struggle to protect against evil. A word out of vogue and often simply explained as a natural reaction to the friction created by a system of haves and have-nots!  

It is my personal belief that we will hear cries for more gun laws, more speech codes, more sensitivity classes and a vast array of similarly useless demands from the demagogues who we’ve placed in positions of power. Regardless of your belief system, law enforcement must demand schools prepare for these crises and prepare ourselves to respond to these critical incidents. School Resource Officers, School District Police Officers, DARE Officers, and any other officers in and around our schools should be armed and working closely with local law enforcement to handle an active shooter. Schools should encourage local SWAT and tactical teams to practice in their hallways and classrooms.  Teachers and administrators should observe and learn what to expect from their officers, and responding local agencies and find out exactly what their role will be in whatever crisis may strike their school! 

Last year the Street Survival® Newsline talked about the need to have a plan and sense of mission in these crises.  As a law enforcement officer, learn the best ways to approach your schools, malls, and other large gathering places in a manner that provides you the best cover or the best way to invisibly deploy. Go and talk to the administrators in those locations and learn the floor plans, exits and potential hiding places. Meet the security officer, (armed or not) and discuss the plans for lockdowns and evacuations. Don’t wait for someone else to do this, take charge. The majority of law enforcement agencies in this nation have less than five officers. Each and every department must make the effort to prepare for whatever disaster, (manmade or natural) that may strike.  Virginia Tech had trained and prepared for an active shooter and still the tragedy was visited upon them.  We must learn from this and keep preparing, learning, planning.

People of action, such as you and I, will always seek what we might do to stop these terrible tragedies. Others will beg to create a world that will never be, a paradise of sheep and wolves lying side-by-side in loving peace. They will someday learn that the shepherd must not be denied the staff to smite the wolf; for the spirit of the wolf will never change and while some wonder why the wolf eats the lamb, you, the shepherd, must stand ever vigilant between the two… 

About the Author
Dave Smith is the Lead Instructor for the Calibre Press Street Survival® Seminars  and creator of the Buck Savage training series.

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