Sometimes A Good Guy With A Gun Is The Answer
By David A. Keene
April 10, 2023
Last week, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee asked his state legislature to provide armed protection for her public and private schools. Tennessee's United States Senators, Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty simultaneously urged Congress to provide the same protection nationwide in response to the murder of six students and staff last month at an unprotected Nashville school.
Conversely, others, including President Biden and his Vice President, blamed the tragedy not on the shooter but on conservatives, the lack of universal background checks, red flag laws and an assault weapons ban. Governor Lee knew from reports streaming into his office that the shootings could have been prevented with school protection.
On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza passed up two Newtown, Connecticut, schools because their campuses were protected by armed security officers. Lanza killed twenty students and six teachers that day at the unprotected Sandy Hook Elementary School. He was not looking to do battle; he just wanted to kill.
This March 27, Aiden Hale passed up two schools he had initially targeted because his “risk assessment” revealed “security was too great” at those schools. He wasn't looking to do battle either; like Lanza, Hale just wanted to find a killing ground. And in the unprotected Covenant School, he did.
The debate over armed security for schools became a partisan and ideological battle following the Sandy Hook tragedy. Those with an almost pathological hatred of firearms opposed measures that most Americans believed made sense. As President of the National Rifle Association back then, I was touring one of several firearms training facilities Israel established to train private security personnel to protect her schools.
Some saw the Sandy Hook tragedy as another excuse to demand more gun control. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, however, was determined to help find ways to thwart future mass shooters looking to turn school grounds into killing grounds.
LaPierre announced at a press conference that Asa Hutchinson, a former U.S. Attorney, Member of Congress and head of the Drug Enforcement Agency had agreed to assemble an NRA sponsored team of professionals to develop a program of best practices to enhance school security. LaPierre said society has an obligation to provide our children with at least as much protection as banks, celebrities, jewelry stores, the media and politicians. The gun control community went berserk.
The Obama White House characterized the suggestion that we provide schools with armed protection as “insane” — until someone realized that the federal and state governments had actually begun to do just that during the Clinton administration by providing many urban schools “school resource officers.”
The Clinton-era program was limited to urban schools but increased funds to police departments willing to assign officers to school security duty. Many departments signed up, took the money but never gave the program much priority and assigned officers near retirement or with little training to the task.
Still, the result was that would-be killers largely avoided schools with security in their search for victims. As inadequate and underfunded as the program may have been, we will never know how many lives were saved. Expanding such a program never seems to have occurred to the Obama White House.
Years before, Israeli schools had been prime terrorist targets and the government responded by sending the military. That caused more problems than it solved because the military's mission was so different from the need. Israel then turned to the police with limited success, but that didn't work very well either.
Finally, the schools began to employ privately trained security guards, men and women dedicated and trained to provide school security. Today most Israeli school budgets include a line item to hire and train security personnel at facilities like the one I toured in Tel Aviv.
Hutchinson and his team began by cataloguing steps individual schools and school districts around the country were taking to deter the kind of attack that took place at Sandy Hook. They discovered many approaches. Some schools had armed their teachers while others had one or two teachers, administrators or staffers who were trained and let it be known that on any given day one of them was armed. They never said who that might be but felt that if everyone knew someone was armed it would be a deterrent. Hiring full time security is expensive and few American school administrators gave security the priority of their Israeli counterparts, so they were creative. Some relied on volunteers; retired police officers or veterans who took it upon themselves to acquire training.
Others were even more inventive. My favorite town provided a visible police presence by allowing policemen to be in the school when filling out the reports that chew up an inordinate amount of time. Fewer police working at desks at headquarters or precinct houses provided school security at little or no cost!
After nearly a year of research and testing, Hutchinson's team developed a plan that played on the NRA's strengths to enhance school security. The “School Shield Program provides training to those who provide assessments of a school's needs. Assessments become the critical first step, determining a school's vulnerabilities and allowing administrators to develop a plan to enhance security. At the time such assessments could cost ten thousand dollars or more per school.
One of the NRA's strengths is in training, so we began to provide training for those who do these assessments. The way it works is simple enough. A team of professionals invite men and women interested in providing free assessments to schools within their area to a training session so they could go out and do the assessments themselves. Most have been law enforcement officers and School Resource Officers who go on to provide assessments as volunteers.
Critics believed that the NRA volunteers would simply recommend arming everyone in sight, but while the need for armed security is one option, it isn't the only choice. There would be no need to assess a school's security needs if there was a “one size fits all” solution that would work everywhere. Properly locked doors, controlled access, fast communication, lighting … or strategically placed cameras can all be useful under the right circumstances and are often recommended in addition to or instead of firearms protection. An effective assessment provides school administrators with a smorgasbord of recommendations so they can pick and choose what they can afford or what provides their facility with the level of security they deem sufficient. The NRA Foundation runs a grant program to help schools to acquire what they might need.
School Shield began smoothly and is still operating, but the very idea of providing security to the nation's schools came under another round of fire from the Left in the Defund the Police Movement. Many liberal urban and suburban school boards demanded that school resource officers be sent packing and that talk of anything like armed protection was off limits, even while aspiring to continue to look for and find defenseless victims.
In recent years, however, a few public officials have begun to realize that armed protection may be a better option than ranting about guns, troubled shooters and various unrelated evils. Tennessee is a practical state, the police in Nashville reacted quickly to take down the shooter, and the realization dawned that the NRA may have had a point when LaPierre suggested after Sandy Hook a decade ago that sometimes the best defense against a “bad guy” with a gun is “a good guy with a gun.” and the media still don't get it, but Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw does. Crenshaw spoke clearly in a recent CNN interview, suggesting that Congress place two armed security guards in each school as “a preventative measure.” CNN's Dana Bash was appalled and asked, “So the answer is more guns?” Crenshaw didn't hesitate, “The answer is armed guards. … Yes, more guns – the kind of guns that protect the President, that protect you all at CNN.”
Those killed by mass school shooters since Sandy Hook have been silenced but could be alive today had political leaders acted with knowledge and reason as Tennessee's governor and senators are today.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of American Liberty News.