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It's common sense to allow certain school employees to be armed: Dick Brandt

Posted 3/7/18

I am writing in response to the recent event in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people, including children, were murdered in a high school.

I have advocated privately on the matter of school …

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It's common sense to allow certain school employees to be armed: Dick Brandt

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Posted

I am writing in response to the recent event in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people, including children, were murdered in a high school.

I have advocated privately on the matter of school shootings since the one at Columbine High School many years ago. My position on this matter has not changed since that time and my conviction on this matter has only grown after 34 years in law enforcement.

My advice on this matter will be focused on school shootings, but obviously it could be modified and used in any institution that may be vulnerable to this type of attack. When there is an attack on a school and our children are needlessly murdered in their school, there is always an immediate need to search for an answer to stop these horrific attacks. You can see that process evolving right now in the Parkland shootings.

The standard knee-jerk reaction is that we need to pass new laws to stop these atrocities. The main thrust right now seems to be that we need to pass laws banning certain guns and make changes in our mental health laws to keep guns that are not banned out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Well, I hate to burst the bubble of everyone advocating these new laws, but it will not work and I will tell you why. Let me first state that I made my living enforcing our laws for over three decades. I and every other law enforcement officer in this country realizes we need laws. Our country would fall into chaos and anarchy without laws. Our country was founded as a republic and therefore is based on the rule of law through our Constitution. But laws are not the answer to everything.

The reason new laws will not work to stop people who are intent on killing our children is very simple — criminals, by their very nature, do not obey laws. Period. You cannot pass any law that will stop a criminal, a mentally deranged person, a terrorist or a just plain evil person from doing what they intend to do. Once again, I am not saying laws are not necessary, but they will not stop people who are intent on doing something.

We have protection-from-abuse laws which are supposed to protect people from abusive spouses. Once again, a good law, but that piece of paper has not protected many people from being further abused or even killed by their spouses. We have laws against selling or even possessing heroin. You can see how those laws are working in the current heroin epidemic.

So, if new laws will not work, what will? The answer to that question to me has always been simple and clear: Allow certain school employees to be armed. Those school employees could be anyone who works for the school district — teachers, administrators, maintenance workers or other staff. The only way to stop an armed individual from killing school children is an armed response. In order to minimize any damage being done by an armed attacker, the armed response needs to be very timely. Only people who are armed and inside a building that is under attack will be able to mount a timely intervention and save lives.

By the accounts I have seen so far, the Parkland shooter was only actively shooting for six minutes. The average police response time in our area is at least that long or longer at times, and we have excellent response times compared to other areas. There is always a lag time in police response. When someone becomes aware of a criminal incident, they dial 911. The 911 operator needs to get the basic information from the caller like what is happening and where it is taking place.

Naturally people are very excited when someone is shooting in the background and sometimes just getting that information can take many seconds or even minutes. The 911 operator then forwards that information to the police dispatcher who will send it digitally to the officer’s in car computer and in shooting situations they will also call them on the radio to relay the information. Once the officer receives the information they will head to the location as fast as possible; but, if they are physically miles away from the incident it will take them several minutes to arrive. Then they will enter the building and find the shooter and neutralize them.

As you can see, all this takes time, and it is what I call lag time. It is present anytime you call 911 for a police officer for anything. In most calls, it does not matter, but when someone is killing people it matters a lot. That is why I say that only someone at the location of the shooting when the shooting starts can stop the shooter in a timely manner and keeps the bloodshed to a minimum.

We do have a school resource officer, and that is an excellent program and a step in the right direction in protecting our children. But the SRO is based in the high school and also is responsible for the middle school and two elementary schools in his jurisdiction. Obviously, he is only one person and cannot be everywhere at once. Having armed persons in every school is the only viable way to protect our children all the time.

I know many people are opposed to this idea, but most of them base their opinions on this matter on their fear of firearms and not common sense. On that note, I am not suggesting we just hand out firearms to school employees and say good luck. A program can certainly be developed that can deploy armed school employees safely and effectively.

First this would need to be an entirely volunteer effort on the part of school employees. They might be risking their lives by doing this and should recognize that fact up front and be able to deal with that fact and the fact that they may have to take another human being’s life to save our children.

I am confident that there will be no shortage of volunteers. Some of our teachers are veterans, and some have combat experience. I would be surprised if some of them do not volunteer.

After you have some volunteers, they need to be properly vetted and then trained. This process could be combined by making them take Act 235, the lethal weapons act, which would allow them to carry weapons in performance of their jobs. They could also obtain concealed carry permits through the county where they live. Both will subject them to criminal background checks to make sure they can possess a firearm.

You also could require that they take the same psychological test that police officers must take before they can become a police officer. Further background investigation could be done on each individual if deemed necessary, but these would be the basics as far as the vetting process goes.

Act 235 will teach them the basic laws governing the use of lethal force by a civilian and they will also have to prove their proficiency with a firearm through a qualification course. This will give them the basic training they need to carry a weapon. The concealed carry permit will allow them to carry a firearm concealed on their person, which in my opinion is how the weapons should be carried in a school.

Further tactical training could be done by our local police departments and the county tactical team. I do not want to speak out of turn because I am now retired, but I believe our local police and the tactical team would provide this service, probably free of charge. Our police and tactical team need to train in the schools they protect anyway, and this could easily be done over the summer school break. The school volunteers could also qualify with their firearms over the summer each year. Once again, I am sure our local police would be happy to help with this.

I know there will be opposition to this. I have already seen that the teacher’s unions and others have come out in opposition to this idea. They already have talking points against this like there will be accidental shootings or the police may shoot a teacher when they arrive at the scene of a shooting.

On the accidental shooting: In 34 years as a police officer, there was only one accidental discharge of a firearm by an officer I worked with. He shot a locker in the locker room while unloading a backup weapon — after his shift was over. He at least obeyed the most important gun safety rule and did not have the weapon pointed at anyone when it went off.

In my book, one accident in 34 years of handling guns untold numbers of times by many officers is an acceptable risk.

On the point that a teacher might be shot by a responding officer, all they must do is obey an officer’s commands when they arrive and there will be no problems. If an officer tells you to drop the weapon, do it. Otherwise you probably will be shot. Once again it is all common sense, which seems to be rare these days.

The solution to this problem is common sense. You can only stop an active shooter with an armed response. Nothing else being talked about will stop another child from being killed. The people doing these despicable acts do not care about our laws or anyone’s good intentions. Only meeting fire with fire will stop them.

Dick Brandt is the former chief of the Lower Swatara Township Police Department.