Candid thoughts on school shootings and what needs to be done


By Paul Markel
Board of Advisors: Police Officers Safety Association

Nobody likes a Monday morning quarterback, I know I don’t. However, sometimes we must examine a tragedy to determine what when wrong. The FAA Investigator at the scene of an airplane crash is not a Monday Morning QB. He is there to try and prevent whatever happened from happening again.

If as cops and professional security providers were are truly serious about halting and preventing serious crime we must be like the FFA Investigator and examine “crashes” in our world, our Area of Responsibility.

Regarding the latest school shooting in Colorado, we, the professional good guys, can’t afford to simply shake our heads and say “what a senseless shame”. That’s for the talking heads on Cable TV to do.

Yes, there are a number of unknowns, but let us start with the known.

1. Armed bad guy enters a school. But, didn’t he realize that schools are “No Gun Zones?!” Didn’t he understand the increased penalties for having a gun within 100 ft., 500 ft., 1000 ft. of a school?! Didn’t he read the school’s policy forbidding the carrying of “any weapon” on property?!

Society’s well-meaning, but totally deluded sheep are obsessed with their little white signs and placards declaring this building or that to be a “No Gun Zone” or “No Weapons Permitted”. (Unless of course you are a homicidal maniac and don’t give a damn about the sign, then feel free.) Ask any beat cop how effective a Civil Protection Order or Temporary Protection Order is? It’s a piece of paper, nothing more.

Shiny placards, clever little signs, and policy papers don’t stop crime. They might give the prosecutor one more charge to hang on the guy if he’s ever brought to trial, but they don’t stop crime. You can’t sterilize the world.

What effect do these signs really have? They tell the bad guy that he has a nearly unlimited pool of totally defenseless victims. It doesn’t have to be a gun. Do I have to remind you that nineteen fanatics killed three thousand people with box cutters?

Why do crazed psychos hit schools? Why not police departments? Because at the PD everyone has a gun and the psycho would be dead in the first five seconds.

2. One hostage died. During the siege that ended the standoff at the Colorado school one hostage died. That sucks. The loss of one innocent person, particularly a child, is a tragedy. But it was one, not ten, not twenty, and not more than one hundred. We Americans have short memories and don’t really seem to care when bad stuff happens outside our borders.

Everyone can tell you what happened at Columbine. How many could tell you what happened in Beslan? How many American citizens can tell you that it was Islamic terrorists, who tortured, yes tortured, and murdered children in Beslan?

Without a doubt, the true “Monday Morning Quarterbacks” are going to take the SWAT team in Colorado to task because one person died, rather than congratulate them for saving the lives of the rest. Talking heads and society’s sheep will opine as to whether a longer negotiation would have been appropriate and you can bet that some spineless weenie will step up and offer that greater gun control would have prevented the crime.

Again, to that I would offer that we need greater box cutter control.

We, as professional good guys and war fighters have spoiled the American public. We do our job so well that they expect perfection. They think we need to kill all the bad guys, one hundred percent of the time with zero loss of innocent life.

That just isn’t reality and we know it. The world is an imperfect place.

As professionals, rather than wring our hands and lament, we need to understand that we can win and we do make a difference. Keep training and training hard. Learn from any tactical errors, correct those errors, and hone the edge of your tactical sword.

3. Schools are cherries. If you are a psychopath with a statement to make, whether you are a lone lunatic or a political/religious fanatic, you need a few ingredients to terrorize the nation.

First you need a ready supply of helpless victims. It used to be an airplane full of hostages, but that has become too difficult to pull off.

Next you need the tools to threaten and kill. Any firearm will do, but again, knives work too. Homemade bombs are easy enough to make with household chemicals.

Of course, you need a willing media to broadcast the horror into every living room in the nation, live if possible.

I’m not giving away any closely guarded state secrets when I say that every school in America is a potential cherry for the determined bad guy. It doesn’t matter what their motivation is. The truth is that taking out a lone gunman is relatively easy prospect when you consider the alternative. What would you do if a team of four or five terrorists took over a school in your town?

If you operate in a small town it’s all too easy to say, “It can’t happen here.” Large metropolitan areas, LA, New York, Chicago, have full-time, highly trained SWAT teams capable of deploying rapidly to deal with threats.

How about Middle America? Does your SRT consist of five or six guys who all went to SWAT school a few years ago and train together once a month if the schedule or budget allows?

From the terrorists’ view point what is the better bet? A big city or small- to medium- sized one? The longer they can hold out, the more they can prolong the inevitable SWAT takedown, the greater the reward.

If they are shut down by SWAT in the first hour, that does not give the Cable TV networks much time to set up and live feed the incident to the world. However, if they can stretch it out for hours, even days, all the better.

Don’t delude yourself thinking that your community is too small or out of the way to be a target. In the bad guy’s mind your town may be the best choice of all.

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About the author

Paul Markel is a former U.S. Marine and has been an Ohio Peace Officer since 1991. In addition to his work in law enforcement, Mr. Markel has provided executive protection both in the United States and overseas. He writing is published regularly in firearms and law enforcement periodicals.

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