Question of the Day: What Non-Firearm Tools for Unarmed Schools?

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Or a good guy who gets lucky with a baseball bat. Pepper spray? TASER? Like many of you, my daughter is in an elementary school that hasn’t taken elementary steps to counter psycho killers – other than a bit of target hardening (a.k.a., security theater). Given the Gun Free School Zones Act‘s prohibition against legally-owned firearms in schools, what non-firearm tools or techniques should schools adopt to protect our kids from crazies?

comments

  1. avatar Benjamin Baker says:

    This is a great question! I look forward to seeing peoples responses as I will being writing my undergrad senior thesis on this question, among others.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Okay Benjamin, I’ll hand your thesis to you on a silver platter. You may use the content as long as you attribute the content to me. I posted this in the last week or so and it obviously applies to this discussion so I am posting the concept again.

      Strategy:
      Slow down and frustrate the spree killer as much as possible and GO ON THE OFFENSIVE with pre-planned and improvised weapons. Slowing down the spree killer means fewer casualties. Frustrating the spree killer keeps them off balance, forces them to rethink on the fly, and provides opportunities to attack the spree killer.

      Tactics:
      Spree killers expect to operate unopposed. Deliver as much active opposition as possible and be sneaky and creative about it. Since spree killers do not expect your tactics, they will not be looking for them. For starters, cover the floor in front of the classroom door with BBs or vegetable oil. Yes, have containers of these ready ahead of time. When a spree killer enters, at worst he/she will direct their attention toward the slippery floor which provides an opportunity to strike. It also severely hinders their ability to respond to your counterattack. At best, he/she wipes out which, at the very least, means they are stunned and extremely vulnerable to attack, and at the most is seriously injured or actually incapacitated from the fall.

      After pouring out BBs or oil on the floor in front of the door, pile up as much debris as possible — desks, chairs, trash cans, you name it: this is an improvised “mine field”. This, in addition to the slippery floor, will both slow down and compromise the spree killer’s ability to attack. More importantly, it diverts the spree killer’s mental capacity to dealing with the “mine field” which opens them up for attack.

      Now that the spree killer is negotiating a slippery floor and obstacles, attack with everything you have. Start with the best, most expensive bear spray you can buy. This will blind and quite literally begin suffocating the spree killer. A less affective alternative is wasp spray. Both choices give you up to a 20 foot range which means you can attack from behind cover or concealment. If students or staff are capable, this may be a great time to throw HARD objects at the attacker. Yes, have a container of these available ahead of time. (I like tennis ball sized rocks although baseballs might be a close second.) If staff or students lack the athletic ability to throw hard objects effectively, move in with a chair to break it over the spree killer’s head World Wrestling Federation style.

      Of course having a firearm would be far superior to what I just outlined. Nevertheless, the strategy and tactics that I outlined will at the very least seriously slow down a spree killer (reducing the number of casualties) and at best it will end the spree killers attack. It ain’t pretty that’s for sure.

      1. avatar Gregolas says:

        To add to Uncommon’s good sense, I used to tell my high school and college classes to counterattack with their 5-pound, thrown textbooks at the instant the shooter came through the door. The boys were then instructed to hit the bad guy as a team, charging the instant they released their books so the shooter had no time to recover or aim.
        At the 2 colleges I taught in, I had either a .380 or compact 9mm on my ankle (with a reload). NOBODY gonna hurt my kids!

      2. avatar Gary says:

        That all looks good on paper, but in practice it’s unrealistic to expect young children to have the presence of mind to attack an active shooter. Even adults, unless trained heavily, will freeze up in an active shooter situation. At Sandy Hook, the teachers first impulse was to protect the children and herd them into a smaller room out of sight – which is admirable and brave. If a teacher had tactical self defense training, one of them MIGHT, an dI mean MIGHT, have been able to take down as shooter as he entered the room.

        Most schools won’t allow defensive articles such as BB’s or oil, because that makes the situation very real, some schools in Chicago don’t even want an image of a gun on a “No Guns” sign. If all the adults in the school have tactical self defense training, and train on a regular basis, that might be a different story, but expecting kids to be able to fight back in that situation isn’t realistic,

        Other than having armed and trained adults in a school, the next best defense is hardened and video monitored entry ways, and then equip each classroom as a safe room with a hardened door and a secondary escape path. But even then, there would have to be some training on the adults part.

        Unfortunately, there’s no one single perfect solution.

        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Gary,

          Of course young children have no ability to participate in active resistance. The strategy and tactics I listed applies to staff and adult visitors as well as older students who have the mental and physical ability to actively resist a spree killer.

          As for your concern that some school board will ban teachers from having a container of vegetable oil or little steel balls, or a discrete bin with rocks, give me a break. Those are everyday items readily available to everyone that pose no threat to anyone or anything.

        2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          “Even adults, unless trained heavily, will freeze up in an active shooter situation.”

          Wrong. This is the same argument where gun grabbers claim that armed citizens have no hope responding to an attack unless they “trained heavily”. Armed citizens with little to no training successfully deploy their firearms in defense of themselves every day. I have seen a surveillance video of a woman — who had never shot a gun before — drawing a revolver and shooting an armed robber. (I will do my best to find a link to it and provide it in another reply to your comment.)

          Adults who have absolutely no idea what to do may “freeze” simply because they have no plan and they are desperately trying to think of one. A teacher or staff member who puts bear spray in a secured cabinet and keeps discrete containers of vegetable oil or BBs as well as a container of rocks, only has to rehearse the event once or twice in their mind to be effective.

    2. avatar David says:

      This response is directed to Benjamin and all the parents on this thread. And I agree with gloomhound. I’ve read all the current posts on this thread and while most have good value I would like to offer an alternative. The best defense is not being where the bad guys are attacking, i.e., a gun free zone. The govt. indoctrination centers, otherwise known as public schools, cannot and will not protect your children. Send them to private school that takes security seriously or better yet, home school. Not only will they be better protected, they will actually learn what they should without all the distractions and govt. agendas. You won’t have to debrief them every day as to why the things they are being taught are anti-family, anti-American, and anti-Christian. At home you can have whatever security you deem appropriate and can involve your more mature children in the solution as well. Instead of their last moments being forced to cower in a classroom with no exits or try to fight without firearms, why not teach them to shoot and, if necessary, defend the home? The Israelis have already shown us how to deal with terrorists. At Israeli schools there are armed patrols conducted by grandfathers and the older boys. On field trips the adults that are with the children are armed. Here is a reference: http://www.killology.com/schoolattack.htm.
      Until we adopt this approach the govt. will continue to sacrifice our children on the altar of political correctness.

      Cordially,

      David

      1. avatar gloomhound says:

        +1

      2. avatar jay1987 says:

        I know they have the manpower for this in most areas… veterans, off duty cops, parents, & other relatives wouldn’t mind doing those patrols, but you do run into an issue in historically anti gun areas in that the folks in those areas will likely keep doin what they do with the anti gun thing.

  2. avatar gloomhound says:

    I homeschool my kids.

  3. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

    Trident and gladius.

  4. avatar david says:

    yeah a fin hammer! Lol

  5. avatar david says:

    and I almost forgot a bunch of body bags.

  6. avatar Steve says:

    Crossbows, dogs, and bear spray

  7. avatar Larry says:

    In the absence of a good man with a gun the bad man with a gun will be a tough opponent…
    But If close and aggressive some one with the old pointed stick can be quite formidable.
    Of course they will need a lot of luck too. But perhaps a gentilmans atire should once again include a cane or umbrella at all times?
    One thing that athletic types might do is take single stick fighting training and carry a cane all the time if a proper design arcane with a brass handle and a small and pointed tip can be a very efective weapon while remaining totally under the radar as most folks these days do not give the props of age a thought

    1. avatar Sabrewolfe says:

      Indeed. I walk with a cane, as it reduces the amount of pain I have to deal with when on my feet for long periods. Even at 36, nobody really pays it any notice. It costs a little more to get the canes built tough enough for combat use, but they are worth every penny as it means I NEVER have to be without some type of weapon.

    2. avatar Leadbelly says:

      I picked up a good hooligan clonker cane a while back. It’s what’s called a “bull pizzle” cane. It consists of a boiled bull pecker stretched and twisted over a 1/4″ steel rod, then dried and varnished. I picked up a very comfortable alligator shaped brass head for it on our recent trip to New Orleans, filled it with bird shot, and epoxied it to the steel shaft.

      That reminds me – how about the changes in the Louisiana concealed carry law? It’s now legal to carry in restaurants that serve alcohol, so long as more than half their business is food! Hooray! I took my chances and carried everywhere on our stay in NOLA, but it will be nice to not have to worry about it next time.

  8. avatar IthinkIhaveaProblem says:

    A good bottle of scotch, it may be you last so enjoy!

  9. avatar Illinois Minion says:

    Legislative reading. Bore them into submission.

    Or the meatloaf from last week….

  10. avatar Jim R says:

    First and foremost, situational awareness training. Teach the faculty and staff to keep their eyes open and be alert. That extra second or two of notice can save lives.

    Second, if firearms are not allowed, blunt and/or bladed weapons should be considered. Bats, canes, batons and yes, knives. Have items in the classroom that can be used as shields if necessary.

    Third, training. On off days the faculty and staff should run through various drills of an active threat entering the premises. Use these drills to experiment with what works and what doesn’t. Implement the solutions that work the best and discard what isn’t working.

  11. avatar Maineuh says:

    Board with a nail in it.

    1. avatar Gunr says:

      Board with 10 nails in it!

  12. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

    Thinking under the radar. A couple nice looking paper weights, such as polished stones, fist sized and a good arm. Then maybe a pair of shears, extra sharp if the shooter/attacker makes it in close.

  13. avatar Great Scot says:

    There are two layers of defence in the classroom that should be dealt with:
    Teachers- These are the people responsible for the safety of the kids and should be responsible for their defence, too. Bear spray, a collapsible baton or, where possible, TASERS. Also a small bag of golf balls can leave a dent if you hit the right place. Also they should have a folding knife anyway, IMHO. But all this would be for nothing without situational awareness.
    Children- These are usually the main victims. Victims. But this does not have to be the case. Again, golf balls thrown at you by around 30 eager-to-injure youngsters are gonna leave a mark. Of course, this should only be for Grade 4s ( Again, am I right here?) and above.
    Maybe also rope and a couple of anchor points around the doors could be rather effective trip wires.
    Also, I thought I might mention some new technology- the sound barriers. They are large microphones which produce a wall of sound that bring entire mobs to their knees. Set it up adjacent to the door, once the killer walks through he is brought to his knees and golf balled/ tased/ batoned/ bear sprayed to submission.

    1. avatar Great Scot says:

      I forgot to mention- We discussed this in my English class when for our ‘controversy’ debate was on the subject of Gun Control (My influence). In my school there are windows to every class so a killer would only have to shoot through those, so no luck for me.

  14. avatar APBTFan says:

    Give every kid a 9″ khukuri and tell them the bad man killed Santa and the Easter Bunny.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Hah! I am still laughing! For the win.

  15. avatar John L. says:

    Fire hoses.

    My old grade school had the glassed-in jobs in the hallways. I still see then in some hotels.

    Non-lethal, ranged effects, can provide area denial. Add in some of the zero-friction crowd-control stuff and the bad guy might not even be able to hold onto his weapon.

    1. avatar MPolcat says:

      Agreed,
      A good high pressure fire hose in every room would stop the bad guy from getting through the door.
      You could design a wall mount that points it at the door, turn it on and it doesn’t need to be manned.

      Of course if the bad guy knows how to turn off the water you’re out of luck.

      1. avatar Great Scot says:

        They could even put some bullets through the hose and the pressure would be lost.

  16. avatar Noishkel says:

    Hmm. Good question. But I’m really thinking anything that’s a weapon or even looks like it might be a weapon is going to get you at least thrown out of the school.

  17. avatar S.CROCK says:

    When I was in elementary school I remember playing with pen launchers that could go through the foam board ceilings of the classrooms. So as an elementary kid, a rubber band launching the ink cartridge of a pen would have been my go to weapon.

    For teachers i would recommend the fire extinguisher. Spray it at the attackers face to affect their vision (and or get some range) then use it as a blunt object.

  18. avatar Dave s says:

    1.baseball bats for each teacher, we can have the charge of the light bat brigade
    2.Fire extinguishers at each class door, an effective screening device
    3. the kids usually carry enough pepper spray anyway
    4.all pens in the school should be tactical pens assuming they use pens in a modern school.
    5. towels and bars of soap
    6. replace the flagpoles in the class with real sturdy staffs with iron points

    1. avatar Great Scot says:

      Towels and soap?
      Also, what’s with the kids having ‘enough pepper spray’?

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        You can make an improvised bludgeon with towels and soap. Wrap some bars of soap in a towel such that you can swing the weighted end of the towel with the bars of soap to strike your attacker.

        1. avatar Jim R says:

          A lock in a sock does the trick pretty well too. Get yourself some heavy wool socks and a big heavy-duty padlock. It WILL break bones if swung with even a moderate amount of force.

  19. avatar Dracon1201 says:

    At my old High School, teachers kept golf clubs, baseball bats, and other heavy objects for this scenario. We talked about it openly, and every student had their own plan on what they would do; run, go out the window, ambush behind a door with a weapon. Few agreed to hide. The teachers encouraged this outside of the administration and was realistic enough to not expect covered windows and thin glass that shatters if the door is slammed to protect us. Ultimately it came down to us to decide how to handle it. I and my beefier classmates planned to stay out of sight near the door and bum rush the shooter. We figured 10+ people have pretty good odds at taking that gun from his hands.

  20. avatar SleeStac says:

    An escape plan. The whole sheltering in place thing seems like a terrible idea to me.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Escape should always be the first priority. If conditions allow, evacuate everyone AWAY from the gunfire.

  21. avatar TheOtherDavid says:

    Weapons? Why on earth would you need weapons? If you had a weapon it would turn you into a spree killer through its irresistible influence. Michael, Shannon, Diane, and that big brave astronaut said so!

    The rainbows and unicorns will protect us.

    Trust them. For the children.

  22. avatar Narcoossee says:

    Lots ‘o ideas @ PoliceOne! These guys are clearly operators, and know WTF they’re talking about, yo!

    Here are some!!!

    3.) OODA Loop for Public Safety
    4.) Sirens on Sticks
    5.) The Cubicle of Life
    Ten More Ideas for Consideration
    Anyone who has followed my column in the past half-decade knows that I’ve written about myriad other ideas, such as:

    6.) Placing air horns in fire extinguisher cases for teachers to sound an alert
    7.) Training and arming a select group of properly vetted school staff
    8.) Putting floor plans for every school in the jurisdiction at every officer’s fingertips
    9.) Equipping cops with patrol rifles, ballistic shields, breaching tools, and tourniquets
    10.) Having cops do their paperwork in squads parked in front of schools
    11.) Parking empty squads in school parking lots in a ‘shell game’ of sorts
    12.) Deploying LMR radios in classrooms for teachers to talk with arriving cops
    13.) Installing Makrolon Hygard bullet-resistant polycarbonate sheeting on windows and doors
    14.) Using use a decommissioned school building to conduct scenario training
    15.) Conducting multi-disciplinary training involving students, teachers, and staff

  23. avatar Ralph says:

    If any non-firearm actually worked, it would be banned too. So, any non-firearm on the premises will be just another example of security theater.

    The children have to die, for the children.

  24. avatar Hannibal says:

    Give them a really loud whistle. Probably won’t do anything but it might annoy the crap out of the killer.

  25. avatar Phil says:

    Kimber pepper blaster. Cheap, concealable, legal, with a range of 13 ft and has two shots. Better than nothing and longer range than a pair of scissors. I bought one for my kids’ principal and he carries it.

    Tazers are expensive and may be ineffective with winter clothing, and are treated as handguns in my state.

  26. avatar Mecha-Ben says:

    black powder and cap-and-ball weapons are not considered firearms in Texas, so how about those? The next Lanza might just sh!t himself real good if he came face-to-muzzle with a Colt Dragoon.

    Also, why not dedicated less-than-lethal weapons? That seems like a decent compromise until lawmakers pull their heads out of their asses. Something with range and stopping power that can’t accept lethal ammunition would be the next most effective thing to a lethal response.

  27. avatar Another Robert says:

    I was thinking maybe paintball guns–the teachers in some schools should probably be equipped with those just for routine teacher duty. But of course, they would probably be counted as “firearms” too by the same fools who made the schools “gun-free” to start with.

  28. avatar Mecha-Ben says:

    Follow-up to above post:

    make sure the less-than-lethal guns have bright orange parts so the cops don’t shoot the good guys.

  29. avatar lolinski says:

    A good knife, as in a Bowie or something.

    That or some explosives, though I doubt that would fly if guns don’t.

  30. avatar Saml Adams says:

    Here in NY anything that might remotely be construed as a weapon will be banned. So: 1) dry chemical fire extinguishers 2) high intensity hand lights–just read a review of a new model that will output at 4100 lumens for 10 minutes–can’t shoot what you can’t see 3) anything that can be thrown and trigger the “protect your eyes” reflex. But really, sans a weapon, kinda screwed.

    1. avatar lolinski says:

      Can’t shoot what you can’t see? I doubt that, shooting through cover or shooting blindly into a tightly packed group of people is more than capable of hitting someone without seeing.

  31. avatar Mediocrates says:

    Prayer?

  32. avatar gunyouzer says:

    I’m surprised that nobody has suggested trap doors that can be activated remotely.

  33. avatar Another Robert says:

    OK, just watched the vid. I’m gathering that the pistol rounds are supposed to be trapped in the fibers in the shield? Otherwise, that guy would seem to be taking a big chance shooting into the shield while holding it in his other hand–like ricochets, you know. I would like to see if a Tok with milsurp ammo could defeat it.

  34. avatar Saml Adams says:

    Lolinski, with all due respect, the scenario premises that you are starting from “completely f**ked” and trying to reduce the degree of “f**kedness” as much as possible. In our district a teacher would be suspended or fired for anything remotely construed to be a weapon. I’ve taught my own kids to always be aware of multiple exits, don’t bunch, and that most GTS scenarios have limited windows of action. Face it, unarmed against a gunman, all you can do is try to disrupt the fantasy scenario that he has carefully rehearsed in his own head and screw up HIS Ooda Loop.

    Regarding the light this is what I’m referring to… http://www.wickedlasers.com/torch

    Another thought is a good green laser would be effective if you scored a “hit” to the eyes.

    1. avatar lolinski says:

      Didn’t say blinding them wouldn’t help, just saying that you can still get hit.

      Best bet is probably be aware of exits and not bunching up, just like you said.

  35. avatar Jus Bill says:

    Just two words: Battery acid.

  36. avatar William Burke says:

    I want to scream how stupid this is. But I must follow my own advice: this isn’t STUPID. No, this is a series of choices, EVERY ONE of which are designed for failure.

    Listen to me, people! They are knowingly offering us a series of choices, each one of which has FAILURE built-in to it. The LAST thing they intend to allow us is to have an effective solution. Which means ARMS.

    They keep offering us snack bits, when even they know what is needed is a MEAL. We need to CALL them on their stacking of the deck. They WANT children to be killed!

    We must not allow that.

  37. avatar cubby123 says:

    They are run by liberals who think more deadbolts will stop a .223.So they won’t change, they will ignore that it actually happened til it happens again! We had a 12 year old shooter kill a teacher and wound two students before killing himself[he just started prozak three days prior,gee that’s funny!!?? ]When the school district called in an expert, he told them of ways to protect the kids.One way was to have an armed air marshall type or armed CCW carrier teacher or counselor on staff .Of course being the liberal ‘we can’t have guns teachers and counselers ‘,they balked at the idea and it went …NOWHERE! So here is an expert telling them the proper steps to follow to avoid this situation again ,and they ignore it.HMMMM??? I WONDER WHATS GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE??SAME THING?…..nahhhh!!

  38. avatar Phil says:

    Strategy? Look at a school of fish or a herd of wildebeests during a predatory advance. Prayer and statistics.

  39. avatar JebNY says:

    Pass a law that all gun free zone signs be made out of AR500 steel so we have something to hide behind 🙂

  40. avatar roogie says:

    I am a truck driver and prohibited by company policy to carry my legally owned and licensed concealed carry firearm. So far I get by with a tactical pen, tactical keychain, a Leatherman multitool, and brake cleaner, yes, even pepper spray is considered a weapon for my large corporate employee.

  41. avatar jay1987 says:

    I work for a “security” company when I’m not in the gun shop. We aren’t allowed guns, pepper spray, stun guns, pocket knives with a blade over 2 inches, or batons. so bout all I got is my car (if I can make it) & prayer. this at a site that has seen 4 murders (2 with a knife, 1 with a gun, & the last with a crossbow).

  42. avatar koolaidedude says:

    I used to work security as well. I was told to use my radio and throw my keys at them!

    1. avatar jay1987 says:

      we don’t have a radio and the only keys I have are my personal set. oh we do have a mini maglite but yeah I don’t think it’ll do much damage.

  43. avatar MarcusAurelius says:

    Rob Pincus has a decent video on this topic. He points out that a bag full of typical text books can stop a 9 mm round and goes into some other topics.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_AwCN8pOCA

  44. avatar CA.Ben says:

    As a college student, I am comforted by a can of bear spray in a sock in the bottom of my backpack. A Glock would be more comforting, but also more likely to land me in jail.

  45. avatar tdgrafton says:

    The most important tool is to have a plan. My general recommendation is to have an ecp away from the school itself, no parking with in 30 yards of buildings, separate location for heavy/ large vehicles. Security cameras at key points outside and in. Multiple exits and doors so that if one location is compromised, it can be isolated from others. Some type of comm system that allows critical information about attackers movements to transfer to school body and first responders. Lastly, whatever plan there is needs to be practice and incorporated into other emergency plans. ( I have a rather abstract definition of what a tool is, so this might not be fair to the exercise. My apologies if that is the case.)

    cheers.

  46. avatar mike oregon says:

    Capsaicin foam, hurts like hell won’t kill kids if you get excited and over spray.

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