Random Thoughts About Nightmares and the Sandy Hook Shooting Simulation


One of the greatest joys in any parent’s life: being there for your child. Last night, it was nightmares. Lola woke up and called out. I stumbled out of bed and soothed her with gentle strokes and soft-spoken words. The third time Lola woke up she asked me a simple question, “Do you have your gun?” “Yes,” I answered. “You’re safe.” Lola fell asleep, exhausted . . .

As I lay in bed, I thought about the parents of the 20 children slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I tried not to imagine the horror of learning that my child had been shot and murdered—and that I hadn’t been able to prevent it.

It must be the worst feeling in the world: a bottomless pit of despair, guilt and self-recrimination.

Some people who lose their loved ones to gun-related violence focus their anger on the gun used to destroy their most precious possession and, by extension, all hope of happiness. That’s perfectly understandable.

In the interminable years of pain, fear and loss; bereaved fathers, mothers, siblings, relatives and friends run an endless loop of “what if.” It’s only natural to wonder “What if the killer didn’t have a gun?”

We shouldn’t criticize the parents of Adam Lanza’s victims who fail or refuse to contemplate an alternate possibility: “What if someone had a gun who could have protected them?”

As loving parents, we’re hard-wired to believe that it’s our job as parents to protect our children. After a child is murdered, any attempt to delegate responsibility to a theoretical defender, whether it’s a cop or an armed citizen, diminishes the guilt.

Forgiving yourself for not being there for your child in their time of need is, perhaps, the hardest thing any parent can do. It may be impossible. I don’t know. I pray to God I never find out.

“How would you feel about guns if your child was shot in a classroom?” an angry father demanded at my local watering hole, assuming that I’d want all firearms banned and wiped from the face of the earth.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “I have no idea. How could I? But I know how I feel now. Right now I want to protect my child. And I want my child protected from madmen. I want someone in her school that’s as determined to save her life as I am. And I want them equipped for the job.”

That is, of course, an emotional reaction. How do I know an armed teacher or guard or administrator would be able to protect my daughter, or anyone’s child, from a spree killer? Like any violent confrontation, the outcome would depend on a huge number of variables: who, what, when, where and, not so importantly, why.

Back in May, I participated in SIG SAUER’s Active Shooter Instructor’s Course. I know how difficult it is for a team of trained cops to deal with a spree killer. And make no mistake: the Sandy Hook School shooting could have been a lot worse. There could have been multiple killers. Bombs. Fire. And more.

My take-away: hell happens. Mistakes happen. Life is a crap shoot. You can no more predict the impact of an armed civilian or civilians in a school invaded by a spree killer than you can predict which school the madman, or madmen, will attack.

Common sense says it’s better to have an armed civilian squaring-off against an active shooter than not. Even so, we need more than “common sense” to decide whether or not we should introduce defensive firearms to our schools, and how best to do that if we do.

Armed teachers? Armed guards? Both? How much training do they need? Will there be collateral damage?

Nick, myself, King33 training, a Simunitions safety specialist and 25 volunteers will be running a simulated school shooting this Sunday. Nick, a former risk analyst for the Department of Homeland Security, is working on creating the protocols for three basic scenarios for the experiment.

1. Teacher with concealed carry handgun, bad guy armed with AR-15, no warning. People walking into the classroom randomly.
2. Guard armed with open carry handgun at school entrance, bad guy armed with an AR-15, teacher armed with a concealed carry handgun
3. Unarmed teacher, bad guy armed with an AR-15, armed guard/civilian with open carry firearm 100 yards away from the classroom

Obviously, this will be an extremely rough simulation. If nothing else, there’s no “real” element of surprise; all of our volunteers will know they’re participating in an experiment. All of them will be wearing protective equipment.

Nick reckons the information gathered will be a lot closer to Myth Busters than a peer-reviewed scientific paper. Be that as it may, Nick and the team are determined to go into this experiment with open minds. We will see what we will see.

Meanwhile, I make no apologies for the location of this experiment (Connecticut) or its timing. As Lyndon Johnson said, a decision is only as good as the information it’s based on. If we are to protect our children, as we must, we need as much good quality information on armed self-defense as possible.

And we need it as soon as possible. We cannot let those who would disarm us control the debate over firearms in schools. We cannot let them spread so much fear, uncertainty and doubt that it clouds the minds of loving parents, muddles their judgement and puts (leaves?) our children at risk from those who would destroy them.

We will do what we can to help all parents be there for their children, whether they’re there or not. Just as I do for my daughter, as I promise you, our readers, I will tell the truth about guns, come what may.