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Across the nation, educators and others are, for the first time, actively thinking about how to deal with the threat of active shooters. Rather than merely slapping up ‘gun free school zone’ signs with all the earnest hopes and good intentions that go with them, they are actually paying attention to real threats and possible solutions. There is, however, good news and bad news . . .

The good news is that active shooters in schools who succeed in killing multiple students and/or teachers remain extremely rare. The bad news is that they do occur and will occur in the future, and there is no reason why they can’t occur at any school in the nation at any time. The educators and parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School surely thought–if they thought about it at all–that the odds of their school being targeted were astronomical. And they were right, yet the odds fell against them. They always fall against someone.

Unfortunately, most of the educators, politicians and others focusing an enormous amount of brainpower on the problem have almost universally ignored the most rational, affordable and effective solution, one that can not only stop an attack without casualties, but could even deter them. Instead, they continue to come up with a variety of schemes and gadgets, things like ballistic blankets, bullet-resistant whiteboards or multi-step programs that end with hiding, or unarmed children gang-rushing armed killers. Such devices and tactics focus entirely on feeling safe, rather than actually being safe.

Here is yet another:

“Muscatine, IA –  A group of small town teachers have a big idea called The Sleeve. It’s a device that slips over the closer-arm of a door to prevent the door from being opened from the outside. The idea is to buy time for teachers and students during a school shooting.

Daniel Nietzel, President of Fighting Chance Solutions and middle-school teacher said he came up with the idea of The Sleeve after realizing the tactics they were taught during active-shooter drills weren’t effective. He said the officer acting as the shooter was able to get into all the classrooms and ‘kill’ everyone inside. The Sleeve is designed to be faster than tying a rope, cord, or belt around the closer-arm, which is what teachers are taught in his school district. ‘You’re essentially tying the most important knot of your life,’ said Nietzel.”

“The idea is to buy time for teachers and students during a school shooting.” Most of the current strategies making a great deal of money around the nations essentially consist of “run, lock classroom doors, hide, and hope someone comes in time to save you.” Buying time doesn’t stop a killer. At best it momentarily inconveniences him, and considering that the police can’t possibly arrive in time, will not save lives.

With perhaps only a single exception, the police have not had a significant effect on the outcome of a single modern-era school shooting. In most cases, even Newtown they had none at all.

“Tired of waiting for a better system, Nietzel and his team came up with a door-closer sleeve made of solid carbon steel that can withstand 550 foot-pounds of force.  Since its debut in early June, the device has gained national and international attention.  When there’s an active shooter, seconds count, so The Sleeve is meant to be fast and easy. The device takes only a second to slip on.

The door closer-arms can vary so each sleeve is custom-made depending on measurements that must be taken before ordering. The Fighting Chance Solutions team is determined to keep production of The Sleeve in America and the devices are made in Muscatine, Iowa at Fabricators Plus.

Each Sleeve costs $65 and the company offers bulk order discounts. There are also $70 teacher gift certificates that include shipping. All the teacher has to send are measurements and they’ll receive the Sleeve three to four weeks later.”

In truth, such a device is better than nothing, but not much. Seconds do count, but that’s about all such devices will provide in the best of circumstances. Most classroom doors don’t have the kind of closing arm required for this particular device, and if there is a window in the door–very common–or a large window next to the door, such a device will buy, at most, only a few seconds before a determined attacker is able to breach the door. When that happens, students and their teacher, huddled together, provide easy and inviting targets. That’s not much of a fighting chance.

The fundamental question remains: what is a school prepared to do when and where an attack occurs to protect students and staff? Unless schools allow willing teachers and other adults to carry concealed weapons, they are relegating those teachers and students to running, hiding and slipping metal sleeves on door mechanisms in the hope of slightly delaying madmen determined to kill the children behind those doors.

I’ve no doubt the people behind this device have the best intentions, but even if it works to some degree, door closer arms are attached to doors by only a few insubstantial screws, usually no more than two. They will surely fail at far less than 550 foot-pounds of force. And this assumes that there is no window in the door itself, or next to the door, which can easily be shattered by bullets or other means.

But what if teachers misuse their guns? Guns are dangerous! They might shoot others or even themselves.

Utah has, for many years, allowed adults with concealed carry licenses to carry their guns in public schools. Until September 11, 2014, their record was essentially blemish-free:

“SALT LAKE CITY – Officials say a Utah elementary school teacher has been rushed to the hospital after a concealed firearm she was carrying accidently discharged in a school bathroom and shot her in the leg.

Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley says the teacher was in the faculty restroom when the gun went off shortly before class started Thursday at Westbrook Elementary School, in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville.”

Ah-hah! Finally! Evidence that teachers can’t be trusted with firearms!

Human existence is a matter of balancing the advantages of any technology with its potential dangers. There is no question that accidental injuries and deaths involving firearms are very far down any list:

“Firearms are involved in 0.5% of accidental deaths nationally, compared to motor vehicles (29%), poisoning (27%), falls (21%), suffocation (5%), drowning (3%), fires (2%), medical mistakes (1.7%), environmental factors (1.3%), and pedal cycles (0.6%). Among children: motor vehicles (34%), suffocation (27%), drowning (17%), fires (7%), environmental factors (2.3%), poisoning (2.2%), falls (1.5%), firearm (1.5), pedal cycles (1.4%), and medical mistakes (1.3%).”

The idea of banning motor vehicles, buckets, bathtubs or swimming pools, ladders, anything flammable or doctors is nonsensical. Equally nonsensical is the idea that firearms must be kept out of the hands of responsible adults, particularly in schools. Human beings make mistakes, but nothing in life is risk-free and firearms are used far more often to protect the innocent and to save lives than to harm.

Under Bill Clinton, a study was undertaken in the hope of providing additional ammunition for gun bans. To their horror, the researchers found that Americans use guns as often as 1.5 million times per year in lawful self-defense. The Clinton Administration tried to cover up the result, but it leaked, much to their embarrassment.

The fact that the unfortunate accidental shooting of the Utah teacher is so rare–hence newsworthy–speaks to the reality of our daily calculus. Firearms, like motor vehicles, ladders, drugs and commercial products of all kinds are so useful, they make life so much better, that any potential danger they represent pales in comparison and may be mitigated.

This is particularly true in the school setting where a single teacher with a concealed handgun could stop an armed attacker before they could injure or kill anyone. The more armed teachers present, the better, and the safer their school will be.

My May 31 article “School Shootings: A Model Principle and Policy” explains how to implement an armed teacher policy for the benefit of everyone in any school. Its essential elements: all willing teachers with concealed carry licenses are allowed to carry concealed handguns. Those handguns must be carried on their person at all times. The fact that a school district allows concealed carry must be widely and repeatedly advertised, but the names and numbers of teachers carrying at any school must be kept secret. This provides credible deterrence, the kind of deterrence no device or run and hide policy can manage.

Ultimately, schools must focus on stopping, not harassing, annoying, or momentarily delaying, armed attackers. If this is not the focus of all that brainpower, it is wasted, for it provides only the illusion of safety, the feeling of safety, not actual safety. To do less only wastes scarce public money on programs and devices of limited or dubious effectiveness. To do less tacitly accepts some number of injured and dead students and staff, those numbers to be determined by the lack of marksmanship and good will of madmen. Responsible, serious adults should not rely on either.

Mike’s home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.

40 Responses to The Sleeve: Feeling Safe v. Being Safe

  1. It is stories like this that make the phrase “disarmament industrial complex” eerily appropriate.

    Your last paragraph nailed it.

    These are inventions and marketing schemes that essentially equal coming up with complex solutions to what is, in reality, a conceptually simple problem: stop the bad guy. Stop HIM and the spree killing event stops.

    Gadgets to stop bullets, keep doors closed, take pictures, shoot pepper spray, etc do nothing to stop the event. They are solutions to symptoms of the problem, not the problem itself.

    • Very true. But, the more tools the better. Even if we allow teachers to carry (and we should), some will choose not to. If a metal tube will keep an active shooter out of the classroom for minute, so much the better, even if a teacher inside that classroom is armed. As long as the gadgets are not hideously expensive (65 bucks a pop isn’t bad, really), and as long as people don’t get a false sense of security from those gadgets. I think the sleeve is a good idea.

  2. For $15.00 I’ll send them a can of shit. In an armed attack they can open it and poor the contents in one hand and for the brief period remaining in their life they can then want a gun in the other.

      • “What person/active shooter wants to touch that?”

        You are projecting your rational thoughts on touching a feces covered doorknob onto a person that is quite likely acting irrationally.

        If someone is crazed enough to be hell-bent on killing children in a school, what evidence is there that they would stop and say, “Eewww, Yuck” and stop their spree?

        • Some experiments are not worth doing. The consequence of failure is pretty high.

          Put this one in the same category is “pee yourself to prevent a rape.” We don’t have data that it would or would not prevent a rape, but I for one would not like to suggest to a woman, “Try this, see if it works.”

          It’s really funny, though…one thing that *IS* known to correlate with stopping spree killers and rapists both is fighting back and that is the one thing the public dialog continues to ignore or outright denigrate.

          Makes no sense to me…

    • I don’t think your can o’ shit is economically viable. Most of your potential customers would have to speak for only a few minutes, and they’ll have plenty of their own.

  3. What about the far more likely scenario, where some smart-ass kid locks the teacher out of the room with “The Sleeve”, to the merriment of his classmates? Or the not-that-far fetched situation where the student with murderous intent slides the sleeve into place just before wiping out all his classmates?

    • The sleeve comes off as easily as it goes on, just not from the other side of the door. Part of the design, I think. If you’re inside, and you need out, you can just pull it off and go.

  4. “the teacher was in the faculty restroom when the gun went off.”

    The formula works again!

    Step 1: Have gun
    Step 2: ???
    Step 3: Gun “goes off”
    Step 4: Disarmament complex profit

    • It’s called passive voice, and it’s actually a big english grammar mistake that is usually a sign of inexperienced journalists.
      Except when guns “go off” of course.

      • That’s actually active voice. Passive voice would be something like, “the gun was negligently discharged by the IGOTD.”

        I suppose you could call, “the gun went off,” a subtle form of anthropomorphization. The author is trying to create the idea that the gun is able to act with a will of its own.

  5. And should the nutter congressman from California get his way, the school children won’t even have the benefit of their bulletproof backpacks, since they will have been banned as “body armor.”

    For real protection? I recommend a sleeve made of Kydex, form-fitted around a concealed firearm, carried by as many teachers as are willing and competent to do so.

  6. This sleeve is the stupidest idea ever. Whatever happened to the good old fashioned deadbolt? Yes I realize that a deadbolt next to a window is about useless and if the janitor goes on a shooting rampage he’ll have the key anyway, but if they must have glass next to the deadbolt they could use something like polycarbonate that won’t shatter. And they should really screen the janitors before they’re hired.

    Anyway, if I were tasked with protecting 20 or 30 children during a shooting spree, sure I’d want a gun, but I’d still want to lock the door and group the children in whatever spot seems to be the safest spot.

    • Why not group the children and the teach right next to the door! Then when the shooter comes through the door, they can all descend on him like fly’s on shit! He might get lucky and get a bullet in a couple of kids, but that’s a whole lot better than all the kids taking a bullet while they are huddled in a corner.

    • I was thinking the same thing. If they want to be able to lock a door quickly in an emergency, a large steel bolt that slides into the frame is a great idea. It doesn’t require an extra piece that somebody has to carry over to the door; it’s built in. It doesn’t rely on somebody exercising fine motor control under stress; just grab a big handle, and slide it over.

      I think that sort of device (the bolt, not the sleeve) is a really good idea. For better results: combine it with an armed teacher in the room, zeroed on the door, in case the bolt fails, and a few on-site armed responders, trained in clearing halls, actively seeking the shooter(s).

      • A door bolt and gun? That’s like saying we should make rubber bags, mount them to wheels, fill them with air, attach the wheels to our cars and try to go fast. What a ridiculous idea!

  7. Am I missing something? Last I heard, you can buy a lock for a door. Kind of the same as a sleeve, but impossible to lose and activates with a simple push or turn. You could even go so far as to install a numerical keypad to the outside so that if some mischievous student locks the door, those authorized can still enter. And unlike a key, a combination cannot be removed from a dead body, or stolen from a person against their will.

    • I suspect buying and installing actual locks would be more expensive. Remember, “if it saves one life!” applies to restricting the gun rights of millions of Americans but not a school tax increase.

  8. My wife is a third grade teacher in a school that is built like many others in the 70s, around an open common area. Two floors of classrooms, all 30 facing an open library. Her classroom has no windows facing outside, no doors facing outside. Her only door is a very substantial solid wood door with no windows. It is mounted via four heavy hinges into a metal frame. It opens out. It’s cannot be left unlocked (she keeps a small magnet in the door frame to keep it from latching). In short, an attacker would likely pull the handle off the door before he got it open. These are very real concerns for me, and I’ve paid very close attention to the details.

    This very stout door is mounted in a wall of windows that looks upon that open common area. They are thick glass, but they are tempered glass (because they are 30 inches wide and 9 feet tall, and that’s code). Per the Fire Marshal, she is not allowed to cover her windows (even with paper) above the 36″ handrail. In effect, My wife and her students are in a fishbowl with zero opportunity to escape and almost nowhere to hide.

    She’s not allowed to carry, but I have no doubt she would do everything in her power to protect her kids. I have been denied the opportunity to apply any sort of transparent ballistic film to her windows. We set her classroom up so that her kids can cram in behind her desk as far from the door/windows as possible, but that is the extent of the things we are allowed to do to combat the million to one odds that her school is targeted. Basically, she’s allowed to hope that her classroom is last.

    Something like the sleeve, ballistic film, wasp spray, or kids with golfballs is not a fool proof safety measure. At the very very best, they are tactics designed to encourage the attacker to pick an easier target. In trade, they may only serve to make the attacker more determined.

    This is not a situation I’m thrilled about. I’m less thrilled that I’m actively prevented from doing something about it.

  9. I do have to admit that gadgets like this one, not the bulletproof whiteboards and other BS like that, will most likely be a great help. Sure, these crazed killer are determined, but will not spend any moretime than they really need to to enter a classrooom. If a room isn’t immediately and easily accessible, I believe they will move on to the next one. This is similar to the thesis that they retreatand kill themselves as soon as they are met with armed resistance. These dumbasses don’t want to fight, just kill defensless people. I’m not one to argue even in the least that teachers (my future wife is a high school teacher) should be allowed to be armed if they so desire, but items like this one to prevent classroom entry will be a great help.

    Oh, foot-pound, is not a measurement of force but a unit of energy.

  10. “550 foot-pounds of force”
    Rant:
    NOOOOOO! Foot pounds are a unit of energy you fools. Pounds by themselves are a unit of force. Get your stinkin units right.

    end Rant:

    • As a guess they probably should have written lb-ft (convention for torque) instead of ft-lb (energy). This sleeve probably splits at the ‘pointy’ base end and the flat side at 550 lb-ft of applied torque.

        • Ask the brilliant engineers who spec’ed metric and got imperial (Or was it the other way ’round?) for that re-entry profile for that Mars lander…

          Another few hundred million flushed…

  11. Exactly how many teachers can reach closer arm at the top of the door and fit a metal tube over the arm in a time of high stress? I don’t remember any of my little old lady English teachers being 6 foot tall.

  12. The folks making The Sleeve call themselves “Fighting Chance.” That’s irony right there. The folks that make my “fighting chance” call themselves Glock.

    • Good reply. I think if I ever opened a private school, one of the requirements for all teachers is that they have a concealed weapons permit!
      And, a concealable gun to go with it.

  13. I appreciate citing sources, however it would be better to cite ones that aren’t quite as obviously biased in one direction or another. The NRA, unless it is itself citing some other source, has too much skin in the game to be considered at all objective. In addition, the research you cited on DGUs is easily found direct from the source:

    https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/165476.pdf

    Since accidental injuries are not inherently gun related, this information should be relatively easy to get elsewhere. For example:

    http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/pdf/leading_causes_of_injury_deaths_highlighting_unintentional_injury_2011-a.pdf

    We cannot be critical of anti-2A propaganda for being based on biased or false information, if we are not ourselves rigorous in our data and citations.

  14. Does it bother anyone else that they talk about 550 Ft*Lbs of FORCE?!?! Ft*Lbs is a measure of TORQUE, not FORCE! This makes it sound almost impossible to generate enough force to open the door! :0

    No… The FORCE required to generate 550 ft*lbs of torque on a handle 30″ from the hinge on an ADA compliant 32″ door is only 220 lbs (of FORCE!!!)…. And considering one doesn’t need that force to be for a sustained period, impact of “slamming the door open against the sleeve” could very easily cut that by a factor of 5…. F=m(delta)V/t, and all of a sudden you have an open door…. You can’t accelerate very fast in a small amount of space, but when the sleeve stopps the door, you have a very small time of impact, thus a very large force… It’s like jerking a car door closed with impact vs trying to push slowly to latch it… Short of “hip checking” it and Slamming it, you aren’t going to be able to push hard enough…

    Moral of the story: Force=/=Torque… Units are important…. And this sleeve could be bypassed by anyone who can put their weight and likely 50 lbs of FORCE onto the handle….

    #EngineerProblems

  15. Simple simple solution…budget in for private security that is armed. Lets see private schools have it, malls have it, all sorts of business have it…yet some place with 2000 students has some idiot with a walkie and that is it.

    • Simple simple solution…budget in for private security that is armed.

      Even simpler solution: encourage and facilitate CCW permits for licensed teachers, either by having the school board reimburse the costs, working with instructors to waive/reduce costs for certification classes, and/or passing legislation to waive state/local costs.

  16. I took a classroom course entitled “Active Shooter” at the NRA Range in Fairfax. It used case studies of recent situations, including Newtown, the Aurora theater shooting and the mall shooting in Kenya as case studies. It did preach that barricading and buying time can be effective. Active shooters want victims. If you can frustrate them at getting to you where you are, they tend to move on, unfortunately to find other victims.

    However, that “sleeve” thing is ridiculous. Like someone said, a dead bolt lock would work better. In the Active Shooter class, they showed us how to instantly secure any door with a handle using a leather belt or length of rope. Those of us in the class tested it. It works!

  17. There will never be a “one size fits all” approach that works everywhere. And a single feature solution is not the right answer, either.

    A multi-layer solution customized for each building is the way to go. Armed staff and parents are a given. Various methods to impede a spree killer are also a given. Exactly how best to impede a spree killer depends on building construction and geometry as well as the age of students involved. If doors swing in, then simple bolt locks or a floor block make a lot of sense. If doors swing out, a strap and/or board (with a hook to hold the door handle) make sense.

    And don’t forget to instruct all staff, parents, and children to put as many obstacles in the spree killer’s path as possible — desks, trash cans, chairs, couches, whatever. Finally, position children to throw as many objects as possible at a spree killer as they try to breach a door and then navigate the “minefield” of desks, chairs, trash cans, etc.

    My personal favorite, if I were a teacher, I would have 1/2 inch strips of plywood with 8d nails pounded through ready to deploy in front of the door with the nails pointing up. See how far a spree killer goes when they impale their feet on sharp nails. Answer: nowhere.

    My solutions that I just proposed cost less than $20 per classroom. There really is no excuse whatsoever for every school classroom in the United States to fail to employ this approach.

  18. Is this particular sign being enforced by The Flash? Also I see that drugs are represented by a hemp leaf a presumed heroin needle some aspirin and the pills from Dr. Mario yet the guns are just represented by the humble revolver as usual. Is this laziness or a peek at their endgame? A reminder that after the evil black guns they are comming after grandpas old bring back Webley.

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