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Home  >  Topics  >  Use of Force

December 31, 2012
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Ron Avery The PoliceOne Firearms Corner
with Ron Avery

Newtown shooting: The elephant in the room

Anti-social behavior, mental illness, and an obsession with “paying back” society for wrong doing seems to be the pattern for these active shooters

As the country reels in shock over the events in Newtown, the focus of this event in the national media seems to center around stricter gun control, while the law enforcement media seems to center around preparedness, recognition, and tactics.

On December 14, Adam Lanza murdered his mother, Nancy Lanza, and then went to Sandy Hook Elementary school where he murdered 20 kids and six adults. He then committed suicide.

This is a sickening, tragic event and, as a father who has two daughters, my heart goes out to the families whose lives were forever shattered by this murderous individual.

Gun-control advocates favor restricting semi-automatic firearms and high capacity magazines as a way to limit the carnage. Yet, on the very same day as this event, a 36-year-old man in China stabbed 22 people at and near a school with a knife. Granted, the death toll was not the same; but the intent was.

In Clackamas (Ore.) an active shooter, Jacob Roberts, went on a shooting spree in a shopping mall until confronted by a legal CCW carrier, Nick Meli. Although Meli did not shoot the murderer, due to the presence of innocents behind the shooter, his actions caused the shooter to deter and ultimately take his own life. 

Death toll was a total of two. Meli’s actions undoubtedly saved many more lives, yet this story went largely unreported.

Revenge!
Anti-social behavior, mental illness, and an obsession with “paying back” society for wrong doing seems to be the pattern for these active shooters. There are untold numbers of mentally ill people wandering around our country and around the world at any given time.

Of this number, a tiny fraction give way to the kind of violence we see in these mass killings.
Schools seem to be the target of choice these days; though this will shift if improvements are made to harden the defenses. Why is this? Because it hurts…bad…and this is what these killers want. They want you to suffer as they perceive they have suffered. They want everyone to pay for their being shunned, ignored, ridiculed, harassed or whatever else they keep score on.

They’re doing this for revenge.

The Elephant in the Room
For years, the grand social experiment of “zero tolerance” for school violence has been championed as a way to reduce school violence.

Creating “gun free” zones, expelling all participants in fistfights; even when clearly a case of self-defense, has created a culture of “victim by belief and by choice.”

It has made people helpless to act decisively in cases where the use of force was clearly justified. It has disempowered them and taken away their confidence that they can really handle themselves when violence is imminent. It has also opened the door to these killers.

How do killers get the idea that a school would be a risk free environment to commit murder? I believe that most schools do not project an image of force protection strong enough to deter a killer. This is a mindset and belief system on the part of those in charge of policy that has led to some rather horrific, yet unintended, consequences. Yet still they persist in their belief systems.

This is not just a law enforcement problem. This is a societal problem.

For the ones who interpret this as my advocating arming all students, the answer is no.

I am advocating for a sweeping change in social and educational policies in how we deal with violence in school and stop perpetuating policies that continue to put our kids at risk.

What I am saying is that the policy of zero tolerance for any sort of perceived violence must stop and the righteous use of force as a legitimate deterrence to violence must be recognized.

Legitimate Use of Force
The only way to check violence in progress, where the victim can neither hide nor flee, is by equal or greater force in a timely manner. Armed school resource officers do deter killers. Yet, there are too few of them. One person cannot adequately protect an entire school and be everywhere at once. With budget cuts and deliberate choices made not to have a force protection plan in place, too many schools are left exposed to predation.

Much talk has been made about arming teachers. Yet, too many of these teachers, though brave, are not allowed or are not willing to undertake the training it takes to make the mental and physical transition into being an adequate protector. Most are anti-gun and are victims by choice and belief.

Having volunteers roam the school grounds, spot potential threats, communicate in a timely manner, and have a coordinated response by the school has not been developed anywhere near where it should be. Unarmed volunteers and teachers are nothing but greeters when it comes to confronting a killer.

The belief that any use of force — however legitimateI — s wrong is at the heart of this matter. It shapes policies and strategies. It disempowers students and teachers and empowers killers.

Law enforcement is not the answer — it is only part of the response to violence.

Getting rid of high capacity firearms may reduce the body count — it won’t alleviate the problem. Learning to use force against violence, changing beliefs to empower people to act, giving them adequate tools and entrusting them with the correct use of these tools is the only way we will stop illegal violence and murder in our schools, malls, churches and elsewhere.

We need to stop ignoring the elephant in the room. Using force is the ONLY way you are going to stop violence in progress or a killer on the loose soon enough to do any good. Stop throwing needless lives away and start learning how to fight back, effectively.


About the author

Ron Avery is President and Director of Training for The Practical Shooting Academy, Inc. and Executive Director of the non-profit, Rocky Mountain Tactical Institute - both training institutions dedicated to professional firearms and tactics courses, higher police standards and training and use of force research. Train with Ron Avery. Visit his Course Calendar. Ron is a former police officer with many years of street experience, which he brings into the training environment. He is internationally recognized as a researcher, firearms trainer and world class shooter. His training methodology is currently being used by hundreds of agencies and thousands of individuals across the US and internationally. Ron has worked as a consultant and trainer for top level federal agencies, special operations military from all branches of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies across the US. He is a weapons and tactics trainer for handgun, carbine, select fire, precision rifle and shotgun, as well as advanced instructor schools, defensive tactics, team skills and tactics, low light tactics, arrest and control and officer survival. Contact Ron Avery





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