About that armed deputy at Columbine

December 21, 2012

In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school, some have suggested that perhaps, since “gun-free zones” have been shown to be ineffective at best and an invitation to disaster at worst, it might be a good idea to have people qualified to carry firearms at schools.  Whether it’s faculty and staff, or police officers, or paid armed security, the idea is the same: take down the shooter as fast as possible, because every second counts.

In reply, some gun-control advocates have pointed out that there was an armed deputy at Columbine High School in 1999 when two teens went on their rampage. Fair enough, but that’s not the whole story. NRO’s Dan Foster supplies important information the anti-Second Amendment forces don’t mention:

…but it isn’t like the deputy was sitting around eating doughnuts during the Columbine massacre. He traded fire (that is, he drew fire) with Harris for an extended period of time, during which Harris’s gun jammed. The deputy and the backup he immediately called for exchanged fire with the shooters a second time and helped begin the evacuation of students, all before the SWAT teams and the rest of the cavalry arrived, and before Harris and Klebold killed themselves in the library. Harris and Klebold had an assault plan — a sloppy plan, but a plan nonetheless. They had dozens of IEDs, some of which detonated, others of which did not. And there were two of them. In this highly chaotic tactical environment, the deputy acted both bravely and prudently, and who knows how many lives he saved by engaging Harris.

This illustrates an important point liberty-advocates have been trying to make in this “debate:” the point of an armed defender isn’t just that he can (we hope) kill or otherwise neutralize the shooter. The armed defender also distracts the gunman, drawing his attention away from his intended targets, giving them time to escape. While 13 students were killed by Harris and Klebold, untold others were saved precisely because there was someone armed on campus. Far from being an example of the uselessness of armed, trained defenders (1) in schools, Columbine illustrates why we should want them on the scene.

It does not make one a drooling, mouth-breathing gun nut to wish someone at Sandy Hook had been similarly armed.

One other point. As David Kopel argues in the WSJ Online, mass shooters are often easily stopped by armed civilians, sometimes even taking themselves out:

Finally, it must be acknowledged that many of these attacks today unfortunately take place in pretend “gun-free zones,” such as schools, movie theaters and shopping malls. According to Ron Borsch’s study for the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato, active shooters are different from the gangsters and other street toughs whom a police officer might engage in a gunfight. They are predominantly weaklings and cowards who crumble easily as soon as an armed person shows up.

The problem is that by the time the police arrive, lots of people are already dead. So when armed citizens are on the scene, many lives are saved. The media rarely mention the mass murders that were thwarted by armed citizens at the Shoney’s Restaurant in Anniston, Ala. (1991), the high school in Pearl, Miss. (1997), the middle-school dance in Edinboro, Penn. (1998), and the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. (2007), among others.

At the Clackamas Mall in Oregon last week, an active shooter murdered two people and then saw that a shopper, who had a handgun carry permit, had drawn a gun and was aiming at him. The murderer’s next shot was to kill himself.

(via Dan Mitchell)

The same thing occurred at Sandy Hook: as first responders closed in, the killer killed himself. But that was after several minutes had gone by, giving him plenty of time to kill and kill and kill even more.

Again, wouldn’t it have been better if someone trained in the use of firearms and in how to respond had been on the scene from the start? How many might have been saved?

Footnote:
(1) If one is uncomfortable with teachers or other staff being armed, school districts could also look at hiring private security that uses former military or off-duty police.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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