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By Paul Markel

Nobody likes a Monday morning quarterback. I know I don’t. However, sometimes we must examine a tragedy to determine what when wrong. The FAA investigator at the scene of an airplane crash is not a Monday morning QB; he is there to try and prevent whatever happened from happening again and looking at school shootings should be done with the same goal in mind . . .

1. An Armed Bad Guy Enters a School

But, didn’t he realize that schools are “Gun-Free Zones”? Didn’t he understand the increased penalties for having a gun within 100ft, 500ft, or 1000ft of a school? Didn’t he read the school’s policy forbidding the carrying of “any weapon” on property?

Society’s well meaning, but totally deluded sheep are obsessed with their little white signs and placards declaring this building or that area to be a “No Gun Zone” or “No Weapons Permitted.” Unless of course you are a homicidal maniac and don’t give a damn about the sign, then feel free. Ask any cop how effective a civil protection order or restraining order is. It’s a piece of paper, nothing more.

Shiny placards, clever little signs, and policy papers don’t stop crime. They might give the prosecutor one more charge to hang on the guy if he’s ever brought to trial, but they don’t stop crime. You can’t sterilize the world.

What effect do these signs really have? They tell the bad guy that he has a nearly unlimited pool of totally defenseless victims. It doesn’t have to be a gun. Do I have to remind you that nineteen fanatics killed three thousand people with box cutters? Why do crazed psychos hit schools? Why not police departments? Because at the PD, everyone has a gun and the psycho would be dead in the first five seconds.

2. Schools are Cherries

If you are a psychopath with a statement to make or an impulse to obey, whether you are an ordinary lunatic or a member of a political/religious fanatic cell, you need a few ingredients to terrorize the nation. First you need a ready supply of helpless victims. It used to be an airplane full of hostages, but that has become too difficult to pull off.

Next you need the tools to threaten and kill. Any firearm will do, but again knives work, too. Homemade bombs are easy enough to make with household chemicals. Of course, you need a willing media to broadcast the horror into every living room in the nation — live if possible.

Over the years I have lived in several states. During the mid-1990’s my family and I settled in Florida. While we were living there the state legislature passed a mandatory helmet law for children riding bicycles. That’s right, mandatory. During the year prior to the new helmet law being passed a total of twelve children were killed during accidents while riding a bike. Even though there was little evidence to establish that any of the kids would have been saved by a Styrofoam and plastic helmet, the law went through.

Don’t paint me as some kind of monster here. The loss of twelve children is sad in and of itself. But we are talking about twelve out of what, tens of thousands? A tiny percentage, particularly when compared to the other causes of childhood death including drowning, fire, poison, and disease.

Fast on the tail of nationwide mandatory seat belt laws were mandatory child safety seats. If you fail to put your three year old son into a government approved safety seat you can and likely will be fined. In the State of Ohio the fine is $100. According to published child seat safety regulations, the fine in South Carolina is $150 and in Texas it’s $200.

Many state legislatures have been pushing through laws to make it a crime if a child is accidentally killed or injured with a firearm that was not equipped with a lock or stored in a safe. Of course this goes hand in hand with the “guns are inherently bad and people who own them are therefore bad” philosophy. Can you imagine someone proposing a law to make it a criminal act if a child was accidentally injured or killed in a car you were driving? It’s not that big a leap.

What’s my point and what does this have to do with school shootings? Each year new laws are proposed and many enacted to try and make the world a safe place for our children. I can only imagine the thousands of trees sacrificed to print the bills, amendments, and legislature designed to “make our children safer.” Not to mention the money spent to enact these regulations.

With all this effort put into “protecting our children” from harm, you would think that any area that is populated predominantly with kids would be safer than Fort Knox, particularly a school. After all don’t our kids spend seven to eight hours a day, perhaps longer, five days a week at school. Given the previously highlighted trend, shouldn’t schools be guarded better than a Brink’s truck?

We care so much about our kids’ safety that we put colored stickers and placards up at school entrances warning visitors that it’s a crime to carry a firearm or any type of weapon onto school property. We install video surveillance cameras to cover every square inch of the grounds. We lock the doors and tell everyone to sign in at the front desk. Some kids are forbidden to carry book bags or backpacks in school. Certainly these measures are more than enough to keep our kids safe in school, right?

Someone explain to me how it is, then, that with all of this political posturing, self-congratulatory back patting and “feel good” legislation that one loan sicko with a gun can get into a school, terrorize the student body, commit unspeakable acts of depravity against children and murder them? Didn’t he read the sign?

How can this be? It’s because psychopaths and deviant wackos aren’t dissuaded by pretty signs or placards. They can’t be stopped by surveillance cameras. Any determined person can get into a public building if they try hard enough.

So, how do you stop an armed sociopath? Perhaps with a gun wielded by a well-trained and competent good guy? Nope. We can’t do that. Guns are inherently evil and any person with a gun, no matter how well-intentioned, cannot be trusted. We can’t turn our schools into armed camps. Just think of the psychological harm the children would endure being in the presence of an armed police officer. Why, they might revert to bedwetting or thumb sucking just from the sight of an evil firearm.

I’m sure you know more than one well-meaning person who, while totally out of touch with reality, would tell you that protecting our children with arms is a terrible idea. It’s funny how these people can’t bring themselves to consider the psychological and physical trauma that is inflicted by a knife- or gun-wielding maniac who takes school children hostage and murders them.

The use of “School Resource Officers” — cops stationed in schools — is not a new idea, but it’s not one that’s employed nationwide. Going back to my Florida days, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office ran the SRO program where I lived. The trouble with selling the SRO program is that it only seems to be put in place in densely populated areas where gangs and drugs are a problem. But school shootings and domestic terrorist incidents don’t typically happen in large metropolitan areas. They occur in places where the common thinking is “it can’t happen here.”

If your community doesn’t have an SRO program the argument against it will likely be that A) we have never had the need for one, B) we don’t have the budget for extra officers or C) we can’t put armed police in the schools — it will scare the children.

If you do have an SRO program, can you honestly say that the officers in the schools are competent enough to stop an armed intruder? Don’t give me that look. Let’s be honest here. I have known jurisdictions that used the SRO program as a place to “stick” officers that couldn’t cut it out on the road. So if they can’t cut it on the road, we expect them to stop an armed maniac who blasts their way into the school?

Maybe you have good people in your SRO program. Are they forgotten about when it comes time for additional training? Do you keep them up to speed on their tactical skills or will you get them some training if you have time or if you can budget it? Do your SRO people feel that they are part of the big team or are they sent there and forgotten? Are they kept fresh or do they become nothing more than burned out donut eaters?

Don’t frown and get indignant. Sometimes the truth hurts. Are we more concerned with protecting our egos or do we really want to stop homicidal maniacs from using our schools as shooting galleries or places to act out some twisted deviant fantasy?

You tell me.

Paul Markel is a former police officer, professional bodyguard and small arms and tactics instructor. Paul is the host of  Student of the Gun: This post is excerpted from an article originally published in April ’08 at and


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      • “But how is the government going to brainwash home-schooled kids?”

        The same way they brainwash the growing majority of massivley ignorant – television.

        • TV is not as effective. It is watched in the home…. away from the teacher telling you what you saw.

    • Or maybe it’s reminder that sick people do terrible things, regardless of their access to “evil” guns. Reminds of the school stabbings that have happened in Japan… and Japan’s got some of the strictest weapon laws in the world in regards to guns AND swords.

    • Perhaps part of the solution is for us to deal more seriously in this country with mental health problems. All shooters appear to have mental health problems.

      But the notion that home schooling is a solution is ludicrous. Many don’t want to teach their kids. Many are too busy with work to teach their kids. Many are probably incompetent to teach their kids. For their part, the kids learn an awful lot from being among other kids. This is a very important part of how they become socialized.

      Besides, there are plenty of other places large numbers of kids congregate where they would be vulnerable.

  1. The answer is not complicated.
    – All competent adults should be allowed to carry concealed EVERYWHERE.
    – All children should learn proper firearms safety (hands on).
    – Stop throwing drugs at every child that doesn’t behave. Some kids may need it but many need discipline. Others are beyond that. Bad kids should be removed from traditional schools.
    – Hold responsible those children and possibly their parents for their actions.

    • Concealed carry be damned, OPEN carry should be allowed everywhere at all times. There is nothing in the 2nd amendment about right to bear arms “concealed.”

      This is a compromise and a trap, begging the govt for rights to carry a gun when no such permission is required.

      Cops (generally) don’t hide their guns. Why should civilians?

      • I have one problem with open carry as a mandate (it’s ok as an option). I prefer the bad guys don’t know in advance who has a gun. Why give them any warning? Let them assume everyone is armed.

        • Unfortunately it appears the “bad guys” in society are wearing dark suits and riding in limos to lavish fund raisers in the District.

        • If you are referring to politicians, I agree. Keep in mind they have gun permits and armed bodyguards.

        • I like choices, like chocolate or strawberry, Whipped cream with or with out nuts. Open or concealed. Nothing wrong with choices….
          Imagine a would be Dillinger walks into a diner. Sees two guys open carrying. Then he thinks who might be carrying that I can’t see? Turns around and heads out.
          We just need national reciprocity, and open or concealed in every state.
          We need SRO’s or armed teachers and staff. Sure they may not be able to stop something like the Beslan’s secondary school on September 1, 2004, but it is better than nothing.

  2. I don’t trust anyone with a gun except myself. At that I want as few people with guns around my kid at school as possible. This means I’d prefer an armed deputy on school grounds (more than one adjusted to size of school) over every teacher carrying a gun.

    • Better invest in a bodyguard for your kid. That cop/ security guard isn’t likely to act like one. Also… better hope that individual is in the right place at the right time for your child’s benefit. It’s not like the school is going to have enough security to cover all areas. An armed teacher is more likely to be protective of their students than some outsider.

      • or to snap himself at those insufferable brats and gun them down. I’m pretty sure that there is a tipping point in the equation where it is likely that the number of people you want to have armed around children will commit more atrocities than outsider madmen. Teachers abusing and harming their charges is hardly unheard of as it is.

        • How did you decide it’s more likely for a teacher to commit mass murder? What occurrences is this based on? You can’t expect to be the only armed person unless you are part of the government. Why should anyone trust you with your gun? What guarantee do we have you will not snap? Why should we trust anyone but ourselves? That’s the risk of living in a society. The problem isn’t the gun, it’s the moral fabric of society itself.

        • same way you decided that everyone being armed reduces the number of murders. An assumption, with either one of us further assuming the other is wrong but neither having sufficient data points to back the assumptions up.

          As for the rest of your comment: the less people in a school having the ability to indiscriminately kill large number of children, the less that can actually happen. Which goes back to my initial point of: I don’t trust anyone apart from myself around my children with a gun. As I obviously can’t be in a school alongside my children all day I reiterate that I prefer as few armed personnel as possible at a school.

          Which brings us back to my previous assumption: why do you think it is unreasonable to assume that with school shootings being a statistical outlier there isn’t a threshold where the number of armed individuals allowed around children in a school will result in more murders?

        • You seem to want all guns removed from society…yet you have one. Are you a cop? As far as the school situation… any average sized man could enter a “gun-free zone” with a knife and hatchet and create the same amount of mayhem. I won’t get into psychiatric what ifs. You cannot guarantee anyone’s behavior… including your own. The best we can hope for is to minimize the damage. Many years ago black racist Colin Ferguson calmly walked down the aisle on the LIRR shooting passengers. He reloaded and continued. I would rather have someone (or myself) shoot back than wait to be executed.

        • the less people in a school having the ability to indiscriminately kill large number of children, the less that can actually happen

          Totally illogical and incorrect. You’re conflating ability with desire. If one person in the school has the ability and desire to murder, there will be killing. If a dozen have the ability but not the desire, there will not.

      • I believe having armed security would work as a deterrent more than as an actual BG neutralizer. BGs prefer gun-free zones than any place with rent-a-cops-with-guns. I prefer the deterrence option because in most shoot-outs/firefights, the majority of shots would miss the intended target and might hit an innocent bystander, like my little children. I’d rather see the BG walk away from my children’s school and go someplace else.

  3. Why don’t the liberals want to ban abortion vacuums? They are OK with killing kids in the womb, but if one gets shot they want to ban the tools of the violence.

    • I dunno. Why are so many “pro-life” people (who think that a single cell is a human being) so supportive of the death penalty?

      • An unborn fetus (regardless of what good or bad person it may eventually become) has done nothing wrong other than exist.

        A criminal guilty of any of a number of predatory acts has proven to be a danger to others. If it is wrong to execute a murderer or rapist how can we legitimize killing in self-defense?

      • why are so many “prolife” people supportive of wars and the killing of women and children in foreign countries in the name of “chasing terrorists”?

        • “Supportive of wars and the killing of women and children…”
          No one is more innocent than the unborn.

          Do you criticize the killing of women and children by terrorists?

  4. When mass murders by firearms are happening in areas where firearms are absolutely prohibited, how can anyone claim that more firearm prohibition could possibly accomplish anything other than making things worse?

  5. I hope the NRA is smart enough to find out how many employees of the school were veterans, former LEO or CCW permit holders who were disarmed by school policy. That would be a good bit of information to add for the debate.

    If I were a parent, I’d sue the district for negligence.

      • I would hope there would be at least one gym teacher, coach, teacher, AP, or principle with the balls to carry. One good armed man or woman in a crisis is a whole lot better than none.

      • It’s like Accur81 said, if we get some, then we’re already better off. From what I understand, in this case the principal and a counselor went down to see what was happening. If they had been armed, they could have intervened.

        • You assume the principal and counselor would desire to be armed. My point is, the odds of those two ladies wanting to be armed is minimal. Just as the gun grabbers solutions te viewed as simplistic one sentence stupidity, so are all of our one sentence solutions.

          I’m all for SRO’s, don’t get me wrong. This incident has got me to thinking that I need to ask my kid’s private Episcopal school’s Head Master about an SRO. I’ve seen zero staff or teachers that appear willing to carry.

  6. Mass murder in context: 1. The most effective mass murderers in history have been governments. One subset of governments, Communist, killed 100 million people in the 20th Century. There are many people in academia, the press, and even in the current administration who are admirers of Communist ideology. If you were an admirer of Stalin (30 million dead), you get to do histories of the US on television (rf. Oliver Stone). 2. Political/religious extremists. Today 99% of this group are followers of the Prophet Mohammud. Over the face of the globe, if today is representative, several dozen will die at the hands of this group. Oddly, most will be co-religionists, but when everybody is your enemy, anybody can be your victim. I am assured by our last two Presidents that Islam is the religion of peace, and the current administration works hand in hand with several of the most extremist of these groups. 3. Gang/drug wars. If you are unfortunate enough to live in the wrong part of any major city in the US or anyplace in Mexico you are familiar with this carnage. If the President has ever appeared on the White House lawn teary eyed over the deaths of hundreds of innocent Mexicans at the hands of weapons supplied to one of these drug gangs by his own Department of Justice I must have missed it. 4. Spree killings. Part of the reason they get wall to wall news coverage is because of their rarity (thankfully). Thus a gang banger gunned down in a 7/11 parking lot at 2am gets a paragragh on page C3, while spree killings are the main headline for days. But these kind of killings have amazing similiarities. The perpetrators are white young males from middle class backgrounds, all of whom have well known psychological problems. But in a secular materialist society, it is much easier to blame a thing (i.e. a gun) than to have to deal with the unpleasantness of human depravity/insanity. Forty years ago conservatives and liberals got together and agreed on something, closing down the state run mental institutions. Conservatives did it to save money, and liberals did it because even crazy people deserve to be free. Both were completely wrong, but both refuse to acknowledge their mistake. Many influential people in our society have bought into the idea that “it is better that 1000 guilty go free than one innocent be jailed”. A fine sentiment if you live in a nice gated community, a catastrophe for those who can’t.

    • 2. Political/religious extremists. Today 99% of this group are followers of the Prophet Mohammud

      Led by that well-known Muslim, Timothy McVeigh. And that other instrument of state-sponsored Muslim terrorism, Janet Reno. Or Joseph Stack.

      The real story is that Radical Islamists have been responsible for very few terror acts in the US. Here’s a report from the FBI.

      So why are we so focused on Islam? Because religion has always been used by governments to keep people at each others’ throats. Governments need scapegoats and villains in order to keep their subjects’ collective eye off the ball.

      While we are busy raging against Muslims, our own government is c0rnh0ling us to a fare-thee-well. And the Muslim governments are doing the same thing to their own people by demonizing Christians and Jews. That’s the way governments here and there keep power.

      • fucking well said ralph!

        “So why are we so focused on Islam? Because religion has always been used by governments to keep people at each others’ throats. Governments need scapegoats and villains in order to keep their subjects’ collective eye off the ball.”

        Exactly. This is elaborately called the “Hegelian Dialectic”. you present a thesis (safety, america, apple pie) and antithesis (evil muslims) and have them duke it out. meanwhile the american people get caught in the middle and hoodwinked.

        its no different than the relative of a certain founder of the federal reserve financing the bolsheviks and lenin then having capitalism and communism fight a long cold war.

        • Nonsense! Islam will not tolerate any other faith (or absence of faith). No other religion has this violent reaction to just about everything.

  7. There needs to be armed security or SRO in school no matter how much dumb reporters say its the guns fault. If a Cop or Guard was there more kids would have been alive today.

  8. The government can’t keep cell phones– yes, plural– out of Charles Manson’s tiny prison cell. That man has no rights, no privacy (don’t think I’m saying that he should, mind you)… and the government can’t keep something not much smaller than a pocket pistol from the cell of a convicted mass-murderer living in a miniscule amount of space with absolutely zero privacy.

    And some people think the government can keep guns out of a whole country?

    • OK, the editing period expired before I had a realized I hadn’t completed my thought. The post should read:

      “And some people think the government can keep guns out of the whole country, much less a school? Unlikely.

      We need force to counter force: armed police officers, teachers, and/or chaperones. This is what Israel has done, and it has worked. There should be at least one trained individual per school– preferably more than that– and SROs are the easiest way to do that, along with being a visible deterrent (not to mention probably the only solution that today’s teachers would be okay with).

      SROs all the way.”

  9. I’m an SRO for a smaller town in central Texas. Every summer break we receive hundreds of hours of firearms training, ALERRT courses, Active Shooter training, combat first aid and other similar training opprtunities (not including TCLEOSE mandated training).

    We are extremely lucky to have these opportunities to train and that we are given the equipment (patrol rifles, quickclot gauze, tourniquets, Israeli bandages, etc.) we need if incidents like this were to occur in our district.

    Almost every officer in our department has at least 8-10 years of LEO experience and have volunteered to be SRO’s.

    I am completely confident in our ability to handle these situations.

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