About a week ago in Idaho, parents rushed to a local high school. They had heard rumors of an armed student on a rampage. A number of good Samaritans showed up with their guns, some even carrying AR-15 rifles, ready for a fight. Thankfully, when police showed up they used good judgement and nobody left with any extra holes.
Clearly, “self-deploying” at your kid’s school poses serious problems. At the same time, the protective instinct runs deep in most parents.
Last week’s incident happened in the small town of Arimo, Idaho. The Idaho State Journal has the story:
ARIMO, Idaho — Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen wants the public to know that arming yourself and responding to a school threat incident will likely put you in harm’s way and hinder law enforcement’s response.
The longtime sheriff made those statements after several armed Marsh Valley High School parents showed up at the school on Wednesday morning when word got out that the school had been placed on lockdown because of a student who authorities believed was possibly carrying a pistol and had allegedly attacked and threatened his sister, the Idaho State Journal reports.
Nielsen said some of the parents who responded to the school after hearing about the lockdown were armed with AR-15 rifles. One parent who was carrying an unholstered pistol got to the school at the same time as the first sheriff’s deputies and state police and had a confrontation with a state trooper, the sheriff said.
Nielsen said encountering the armed parent at the school was very stressful for the trooper who stopped the man and told him to leave school grounds until law enforcement had the situation under control. Nielsen said the parent later profusely apologized to the trooper.
Very stressful? Sheriff Nielsen has a way with words.
Nielsen, whose law enforcement career spans four decades, said he’s never seen armed parents respond to a lockdown before and he wants to make it clear that doing so is a very bad idea.
The old lawman can thank the Broward County Sheriff’s Department for the parents’ reaction. Americans’ trust in law-enforcement to respond aggressively and courageously took a big hit courtesy of “Coward” County Deputy Scot Peterson and his fellow deputies. Rather than enter the school and stop the shooting, they stayed outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as innocents were slughtered inside.
“Do not self-deploy to assist us,” Nielsen said. “We believed we had a kid who had just injured his sister and who had a gun. This wasn’t a test. We believed there was the possibility of an active shooter.”
“Do not self-deploy to assist us.” That stands as pretty good advice, whether you live in Bannock County Idaho or Broward County Florida.
In today’s world, police will roll up on an active threat call with one mission: run towards the sound of chaos and stop the threat (OK, maybe not in Broward County). The lawmen probably don’t have a good suspect description. After all, witness reports will come from panicked and excited people. Anyone officers see with a gun and without a uniform and/or a badge will earn the “threat” designation.
If that person with a gun is you, then you become a potential target. You might have the noblest of intentions, but those won’t make you bulletproof.
Not only that, but what happens if you mistakenly shoot someone who isn’t the bad guy? It won’t be easy to live with yourself if you shoot an innocent teacher, student, or an off-duty cop who responded.
With good fortune and good cops, you may get a brief warning to drop your heater. If you suddenly turn in a startled reflex or don’t hear their commands, the police may light you up or burn you down. No matter your preferred description, it won’t be good.
In active shooter incidents outside of schools – or say a mall or theater – you face a real risk of a fellow good guy with a gun mistaking you for a bad guy. While rare, cops do shoot fellow cops by mistake.
Obviously, good parents will risk their lives to save their kids. Parents have a lot more incentive to stop a spree killing in their kids’ school than does a random cop. So what can you do that’s a lot safer than running into an active shooter situation?
Don’t wait for a problem to happen. Get involved now. Your local PD or sheriff’s office will (or should) know the issues they face in school security. Ditto for school administrators. Talk with them and get their input on how and when you can help. But whatever you do, don’t show up armed and uninvited in the middle of a problem. Bad things will probably happen for all involved.