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Category Archives: 011 Reality Based Training

School Shootings: Are You An Accessory To Murder?

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Facts continue to emerge in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Broward County, Florida high school. But already, they are drowned out by the ill-informed, emotional calls for more restrictions on gun ownership. We won’t enter that endless debate here.  Instead, let’s cook down to the essentials of what we know about this incident. We will not name the shooter, because infamy is what they want.

  • He was identified as a threat.
  • His public social media accounts demonstrated the threats.
  • He was expelled from school because he was threat.
  • The Police visited him because they knew he was a threat.
  • The FBI was aware of him because he was a threat.
  • The students were aware of him.
  • Teachers were aware of him
  • All the so-called warning signs were missed.

Nothing was done, and we have to ask, once the wave of sentiment has passed, what could have been done. There may be some fixes there, but behind all of this is our bedrock principle of the presumption of innocence, and the question: had he committed a crime or provided probable cause to believe that he was about to do so? Reports and suspicions in this case turned out to be justified, but do we want a society where anyone can be “taken off the street” on the basis of another citizen’s “suspicion”? Do we want to return to the days of forcible commitment to mental health facilities without due process of law? Perhaps we do; but be careful what you ask for.

  • He bought the weapon legally, because we allow 18-year olds to buy rifles, and there was nothing in the background check database that flagged him as ineligible.

But do we really believe that he could not have found a gun on the secondary market to buy for cash, if he had been turned away by a licensed dealer?

  • The students had drilled active shooter scenarios.

But even if we believe that “lockdown” would have stymied a rifleman who simply walked onto the school campus, as riflemen will do (see Sandy Hook), one pull on a fire alarm sent targets flooding into his field of fire. “Active shooter scenarios” – and planning – need some work.

  • There were uniformed cops stationed on campus.

This is another palliative measure that contributes some undefinable level of security – or at least the reassuring, uniformed appearance of it – to a school. But from Columbine to Broward County, we have seen uniformed officers on scene unable to engage and reduce the body count.

And 17 died – unnecessarily.

The missing ingredient?  Armed and trained school staff members on-site. We are not talking about more law enforcement officers, or random armed civilians, or – certainly not! – armed high school students. We are talking about volunteer members of school staff – with a direct stake in their own safety, their peers’, and their students – discreetly carrying concealed handguns, and trained to respond immediately in the first seconds of an incident. With an enrollment of 3,000+ this school should have had ten to twenty of them, spread across the campus attending to their everyday duties, their identities and locations unknown and unpredictable to any potential attacker.

Because the only way to deal with a decentralized threat is with distributed security.

Rather than wailing “this has to stop,” accept the fact that it will not stop, and take action to defend your yourself and your community.

You’re never going to confiscate guns in the US. Criminals will not obey your laws or signs. Cops won’t be there when the shooting starts.

The only option is train to defend – decentralized threats require distributed security.

Anything less than that is tantamount to being an accessory to murder.

11 School Shootings This Year? It’s Past Time to Arm Teachers!

Guns-In-School

By: Bill Tallen Executive Vice President – Tactical Operations – Distributed Security, Inc.

The BBC ran a story recently on school shootings and the debate over arming school staff to defend against same (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42804741). I was present as an observer (along with the BBC reporter) at the FASTER training in Colorado in June 2017, supported the passage of legislation a year ago in Wyoming that allows armed school staff at school board discretion, assisted in the formulation of non-regulatory guidance on the topic for the Wyoming Department of Education, now support implementation of this law in my own northwest Wyoming school district, and am an officer and founding partner in Distributed Security, Inc. (www.distributedsecurity.com), which offers training in this and related areas. So I think I’ll weigh in.

Let’s not quibble over statistics any more than necessary, as it is about as thankless and unrewarding as wrestling a pig. Regardless of when you start counting, or what you count, it’s inarguable that school shootings, while not commonplace given the sheer number of schools in America, are certainly frequent enough to capture the attention of the media – and of parents and communities who understand that our children are our most precious assets. School shootings are a classic example of a “low probability, high consequence” risk. Events of such monstrously unacceptable consequence deserve our attention and resources, even if as individuals we think the dice in our particular neighborhood are very unlikely to come up snake-eyes.

Resistance is futile – arming school staff is the trend

The legal context is this. Federal law – the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1995 – makes it illegal to possess a firearm on school property anywhere in America, unless an individual falls under one of several specific exclusions, the most self-evident being the ones for commissioned law enforcement or contracted security guards.  But there is also an exclusion for anyone “licensed by the state” to possess a firearm in the schools. That license has been interpreted by the courts to include a state concealed carry permit, but only if the state law regarding permits explicitly authorizes permittees to carry in schools. The States differ widely. A few, such as Utah, simply do not list schools as areas off-limits for concealed carry.  This qualifies as an “inconvenient truth” for those opposing firearms in schools, because there hasn’t been a shooting, accidental or otherwise, in a Utah school in the 18 years this law has been in effect. Half of the States allow permitted concealed carry in schools under varying conditions. At last count (and here is an important quibble, BBC), fifteen States allow concealed carry by permittees with the permission of the school board or administration; another ten allow carry by staff as well as non-staff concealed carry permittees under a variety of conditions, most of which involve some form of local approval. As the BBC reports, six more states are currently considering bills which allow the arming of school staff.

We often hear, “If the threat is that bad, we should have police officers in the schools.” But to use my district as an example, we have one commissioned School Resource Officer, and seven schools. To hire more would cost $43-45,000 a year in burdened salary for each, or over a quarter million a year to put just one in each of the six unprotected schools. The initial cost of processing and training school staff who volunteer to carry their own weapons concealed would be $2-3,000 each, plus perhaps 20% of that each year for annual refresher training. The first year’s salary of one uniformed officer would pay the initial cost of 14-20 concealed carry staff members; and in many states, non-profit fundraising organizations provide scholarships to pay for armed school staff’s training. The cost advantages are obvious.

This background allows us to reply to the BBC’s title question, “Is it time to arm teachers?” by pointing out that between one-third and one-half of the States in this union have already decided that yes, it is, and authorized their school boards to proceed.

Teachers who do not trust. . . teachers

The next part of the BBC’s reportage that I’ll comment on is the uncritical presentation of certain opposition viewpoints. We are told that an NEA survey in 2013 reported 68% of teachers opposed to having armed non-law enforcement people in school. What is not pointed out is: (1) the NEA as an organization is opposed and campaigns against arming school staff; (2) the NEA is a teachers’ union with a well-documented leftwing slant on most social issues; (3) their survey was only sent to 800 of their own members, so what we do know is that 544 union members agree with their union on the topic. Pardon me if I am unimpressed. A survey undertaken in Powell, Wyoming this month gave results very nearly opposite the NEA’s – 64% of staff, not to mention 75% of parents, felt that armed staff would make schools safer – and I suspect that is closer to the sentiment of much of America, educators and non-educators alike. If it isn’t so everywhere, well, that’s the beauty of living in a republic – you can, within personal constraints, choose your community.

Legislators who don’t trust teachers

Our BBC friends also share the sentiments of a Michigan “former teacher-turned-Democratic state senator” who is among a “vocal minority that opposes” the bill that passed his house by a large margin last year, and who disparages anyone who would volunteer to carry in the schools as a “Rambo”. On the one hand, I might point out that his viewpoint lost, or that his views don’t seem to be informed by experience as an armed citizen or trainer. On the other hand, I could (and have) spoken against a legislative approach like Michigan’s that forces an expansion of concealed carry into a wide variety of locations – like schools – where it was formerly prohibited. Especially the schools. It is a contentious topic, and I believe it is best handled the way the afore-mentioned 15 states have done so – leave it to the discretion of individual school boards; and of course, the people armed will all be volunteers – no one would be forced to carry a firearm. Experience in Ohio, South Dakota, and elsewhere has shown that while boards are initially hesitant to use their discretion, once a few do so, the trickle quickly becomes a flood as it is demonstrated that the thing can be done safely, for a very substantial increase in security. I suspect this may also have something to do with the real liability question involved – not “what if there’s an accidental shooting?” but “what if there’s an active shooter, and our kids die because I and my fellow trustees voted down armed security?”

Training is the key

Everywhere this battle is joined, one of the more common refrains of the opposition to armed school staff is that “teachers” can’t be trained in X hours, with X being whatever training they’re taking or required to take.  First of all, “teachers” is a misleading, as usually all school staff, not just teachers, are eligible, and arguably administrators, counsellors, coaches, custodians, etc. can be better candidates as they are less likely to be tied down, responsible for a classroom full of kids, instead of free to respond toward the “sound of the gun”.

Second, many of the critics have never participated in any combative handgun training whatsoever and have no idea what they are talking about.

Third, modern training techniques allow a 24-hour course, mixing live fire training with scenario-based training using nonlethal firearms and live role players, as offered by DSI, FASTER, and other purveyors of training (and required by law in several states, and by liability insurance providers in others) to impart the necessary skills and mindset. I’ve heard these assertions of “not enough training” both from anti-gun progressives, and from retired law enforcement officers. The latter (all credit to them for their service) sometimes have not witnessed modern training techniques and default back to their dreary academy courses decades ago, where they spent 40, 60, or 80 hours in what amounted to painful, redundant, and unproductive training. I speak as a retired Federal Agent and former director of an agency academy myself; there are better ways, guys, come and see.

Finally – on the training issue – I find it interesting to hear it asserted that educators cannot possibly be trained to react appropriately in an active shooter situation. I’ve been training civilians (as well as police and military) for decades, and haven’t found any career field that disqualifies a dedicated person from learning the firearms, tactics, and decision-making skills required. In fact, educators by their very nature and background, are among the best adult learners out there. Millions of Americans, from all walks of life, carry concealed firearms daily without mishap or misjudgment, and when forced to react to a shooting, usually do so with skill and discretion – even those who have not completed intense 24-hour training programs. If you asked me, as a trainer, whether Michigan’s proposed eight hours of training is enough, I’d say probably not – and I hope that requirement will get beefed up before the bill reaches the Governor’s desk. But to all the “not enough training” sharpshooters, my last response would be, “Why do you think it’s better to have no defender at all, leaving kids helpless against a mass murderer, than to give them a chance of survival with someone who is willing to rise to the challenge and protect them, even if they have not attained some arbitrary threshold of training?”

 

Bill Tallen is Executive Vice President – Tactical Operations. Prior to joining the enterprise he had a 20 year career with the Department of Energy, where he served as a Federal Agent, team leader, unit commander, training instructor, and manager in the agency which provides secure transportation of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials within CONUS. He helped to found DOE’s Special Response Force program, developing and teaching urban and close quarter battle techniques to Federal Agents charged with recovery of lost assets. He has designed and conducted a variety of wargaming efforts in support of vulnerability assessments, security system design, and leadership training, and has taught a variety of crisis decision making models. Bill holds the degree of Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. 

Tactical Definitions & Ideas A – I

Below you will find an index of commonly used definitions. As we mentioned previously, you shouldn’t feel pressured to memorize them immediately; rather, come back to them often when you come across an unfamiliar term while you are reading through this manual.

Ability, Opportunity, Jeopardy

Generally speaking, there are three elements that must be present to justify lethal force are Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy.

In some states, you must clearly be able to prove that there was little or no reassemble hope of a safe escape or retreat, or by doing so you would have jeopardized the lives and safety of others.

Ability – Your adversary must clearly demonstrate that he has the ability to kill or cause serious bodily injury, whether that be through the use of weapons, disparity of numbers, size or demonstrated skills such as martial arts (which you must be aware of beforehand).

That is, if your adversary was armed, and not showing that he was armed (concealed carry), or was a black belt in some killer martial art form, you cannot learn of this fact after the fight and use that as part of your defense in a court of law.

Opportunity – Your adversary must clearly have the opportunity to kill or cause serious bodily injury immediately.That is, he must be within range without intervening objects or circumstances, which would prevent him from carrying out an immediate attack whereby he could kill or cause serious bodily injury.

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Coming After Your (replica) Guns?

Toy gun

Of the 86 fatal shootings involving imitation firearms since 2015, the most common theme was mental illness: 38 of those killed had a history of it, according to their families and police reports. Fourteen of the calls were domestic disturbances. Ten others began as robberies. The remaining circumstances range from patrolling neighborhoods to serving arrest warrants to making traffic stops.

Are more laws needed to make a fake gun look fake to protect the person wielding it inappropriately?

Is the problem fake guns that look too real (whatever that means), or could other factors be at play?

Since people under a life or death situation (such as those described in the article) naturally achieve a sympathetic nervous system or (SNS) response which includes the loss of color vision; what modifications will be demanded when simply coloring guns differently doesn’t fix the problem?

It seems to me that the real problem is that some people choose to intimidate, coerce, or otherwise threaten other innocent people, and then other people react with appropriate levels of counterviolence when faced with someone acting in a manner that suggests that they or others are in immediate jeopardy of loss of life and limb.

As my friends in law enforcement say “You do stupid thing, you win stupid prizes.”

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