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“Controlled chaos.” That’s how SIG SAUER Senior Instructor Scott Reidy describes police response to an active shooter at a school. At best. And no wonder. Officers entering the scene of a school shooting don’t know how many gunman are involved, where they’re located, what weapons they wield or the type or location of hostages, innocents, other responders, explosive devices or booby traps. They may not even know the school layout or the officers who’ve joined them at the scene. In the initial phase, there’s not likely to be a chain of command. And off they go . . .

There’s plenty of little things that need learning. Don’t rush around corners. Pause after your teammate opens a door so he can grip his gun and come steaming in behind you. Communicate loudly so that other entry teams will know your movements. Don’t forget to clear rooms. Or post guards in hallways. Don’t deal with the injured until you’ve secured the shooter, unless you need intel from them. Look out for booby traps and bombs. Call them “bingos” to avoid inducing panic. Beware of blue-on-blue (armed civilians or off-duty cops). Shoot to stop.

The SIG SAUER Academy’s Active Shooter Response Instructor’s course teaches techniques and strategies are based on common sense, police procedure and real-world tragedy. The instructors know what’s required for the real deal, and how to teach someone how to teach someone the best way to end an active shooter incident. But there’s no getting around it: the money shot—the sim itself—is the dictionary definition of basic. It reminded me of playing Starsky & Hutch with Steven King in my parents’ house when I was eight.

SIG’s trainers are well aware of the discrepancy between their final exercise and reality. They know that cops entering a school shooting scene (or similar) could face screaming children, piles of dead bodies, wounded people screaming for help, fire alarms, sirens, a blood-slicked floor, a labyrinth of dozens or rooms (which may extend inwards six or seven deep) and corridors (that could stretch more than a 100 yards). Equipment failure. Return fire from a child. Or children. Who may attempt to blend in with hostages or innocents. Or trigger the aforementioned bombs.

The sim doesn’t recreate the reality. It can’t. It can only give officers the basic tools they need to bring order to chaos. To raise their game beyond the SIG SAUER training, police participants would have to practice in a more realistic environment with simunitions (i.e. people firing back). That takes a lot of money, time, equipment and organization. More than SIG SAUER can bring to bear at their Epping Academy.

That’s a shame. In post-9/11 America, Uncle Sam (i.e. your tax money) buys local and state cops all the law enforcement toys they want, up to and including a tank. What they need is training. Constant, realistic, challenging training. While SIG SAUER fills a gap in the cops’ active shooter response skills, LEOs deserve something bigger, badder, longer and more realistic—considering the dangers involved. To wit: the last slide on the pre-sim Powerpoint presentation. “Sometimes it’s a bad day to be a cop.”

And yet there they are.


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  1. “They may not know the police that they’re working with (minimum two-man team).”

    Stopped reading right there – anybody who watches TV or movies knows they always send one baaaaad dude in to stop the active shooters. Duh.

    Jokes aside, I’m not sure how cost effective it is to have police (I’m hoping they’re SWAT-types and not regular officers) attend continual training to try to prepare for every eventuality – the sort of stuff you mentioned is far beyond the purview of the average police officer (the ones I’m familiar with, anyway).

  2. “Active Shooter” like in Virgina Tech or Colombine is one thing, dedicated terrorist/jihadist is another. I am wondering if there was any discussion along the lines of Beslan or Ma’alot?

  3. ” but TV cop shows have seared the basics into my subconscious mind since childhood.”

    No cops were doing anything remotely like that in my childhood, and only in the past decade or so on tv.

    And I don’t recall that IED’s were so prevalent in the continental US.

    • “And I don’t recall that IED’s were so prevalent in the continental US.”

      The Columbine scummies thought they had the place rigged to blow, but their incompetence just left them with scary looking paperweights. IEDs are always a possibility, especially now with instructions so easy to find online.

  4. Y’know, Robert, it’s almost starting to sound like it would be easier/safer/better if there were someone already on scene with a gun. Someone who knew the kids. Someone who could identify the shooter; perhaps even witnessed the shooter’s actions. Someone intimately familiar with the building’s layout. Someone who was not only allowed to carry a gun on campus, but who was encouraged to do so. If only we could think of someone like that…

    • No kidding! The professional law enforcement response time is unavoidably too long and lack of familiarity with the scene will slow progress significantly. Selling the idea that arms are more important to student safety than sprinkler systems since we’ve had zero fatal school fires in the last decade but have had numerous school shootings would be the deal breaker unless it were possible to replace the socialists running the Department of Education.

      • I’ve seen schools that didn’t have a cop on the premises. I’ve yet to see a school that didn’t have teachers.

        • I personally wouldn’t carry if they let me. I teach in a fairly poor district with a questionable population, and it is still not enough to get me to carry. I don’t want the extra litigation. Even if I were allowed, I doubt the school board or the administration would back me up. Not to mention all of the civil litigation that I would have to go through at the hands of the parents. It is not worth it. If there was an active shooter at my school the campus pd could go at him, I would be too busy deal with my 20+ students to be effective.

    • Good point Moonshine. I got the reference to teachers right away. I too think they should be allowed to carry. After all it’s their right isn’t it? But where do you start? Remember the video the other day of the teachers telling kids to build a cemetery outside the school for gun victims? There are just so many idiots out there, and they seem to gravitate toward govt jobs. It’s very aggravating to be subjected to their crap every day.

      • I don’t see you stepping up to educate children. If you think you can do better go out and be a teacher. I am so tired of parents leaving me the job of raising their children while I work my ass off to make sure your offspring skates by on the tax-payers dollar. If teachers didn’t have to deal with parents getting in the way of education, perhaps we could actually catch up to the rest of the world.

        • IRock, you sound like the teachers at my kids’ school: decent, reasonably intelligent, hard-working and sick of the “me first” generation. I stay out of my kids’ teachers’ way unless something blatantly false is being taught. Wanna know why? I didn’t go to school to be a teacher. If you want to debate the merits and flaws of BWR’s versus PWR’s, we can have at it. When it comes to education, I handle what I can via explanation and demonstration. Teaching in a group environment? No thanks. And thank you for what you do.

        • @irock350 My comments did not attack you personally as you did to me… but perhaps they were a bit too close to home.

          If you are “so tired” of the job get a new one and give the “tax-payers dollar” (sic) a break. I’m guessing English teacher.

  5. ” it reminded me of playing Starsky and Hutch in my back yard with Steven King when I was eight years old, complete with fake, non-firing firearms.”

    Just for clarification’s sake…. Are you saying that you’re childhood playmate was THE Stephen King???? If so, that is so badass that Chuck Norris would be jealous.

  6. playing Starsky and Hutch in my back yard with Steven King when I was eight

    When I was eight, I played doctor in my backyard with Christine from across the street. To each his own.

  7. So the cops have no idea what is going on, and don’t know the layout. And yet, the people on the scene- in the thick of it- often have all the information needed to respond properly to the situation. But clearly, the police officers with no information are far more qualified than non-LEOs to handle the situation, and to make life-and-death decisions based off of all that non-information.


  8. The active Shooter course looks interesting from a LEO perspective, but as a teacher, it is not too terribly helpful.

    Let’s suspend reality for a second, and pretend that teachers could CCW on campus. If there was an active shooter on campus, all teachers would have to follow the school’s lock down scenario. That means that all teachers would be in their classrooms, or whatever room closest to them if they are caught outside or during on an off period with all of the doors locked. Teachers would be too busy calming down children and moving them away from doors to use any of the maneuvers shown. The best that most teachers could hope to do is stand by the door and ventilate anyone hostile who tried to open it.

    Aside from the working within the limitations of the lock-down protocol, the majoriy of teachers are women. And despite what marketing campaigns the NRA provides, females are less likely to CCW. Not only are females less likely to CCW, they are less likely to carry the weapon on their person, they have purses to keep all of their goodies. But the problem with bags, is that they can easily be taken and searched through by little hands. Classrooms aren’t known for being very secure, and teachers are all but forced into having an open door policy. My fear, and a fear of several of the women I work with is that if they kept their heater in their purse, that would leave an easy accessible firearm for children to get a hold of.

    So it comes down to this, while I think teachers should be able to carry onto school grounds, it becomes a logistical nightmare to do so. You open yourself up as a teacher to an enormous amount of risk just by stepping in to the classroom unarmed, adding another element seems like to much liability on the shoulders of the teacher, a teacher who would be left out in the cold by the administration if they ever had to use their firearm in self-defense or in defense of their students. Unless a lot of the rules changes and the schools provide a financial defense for their teachers, carrying just wouldn’t be worth it in my eyes.

    • “The best that most teachers could hope to do is stand by the door and ventilate anyone hostile who tried to open it.”
      I do not mean to be obtuse, but from what I have read that sounds exactly like what could have stopped most of the school shootings that I know of.

  9. They could stop the shootings after they start. Most school shooting start in an open area like the halls,the library, or the cafetria and then, if ever, move to the class rooms. Teachers could stop the active shooter(s), but only after heavy casualties have been infected, and that is why that trainimg isn’t useful for teachers.
    At the sound of gunshots you won’t have teachers roaming the hallways taking on bad guys, they would be securing classrooms and calling the cops.

    • Do you think there would be some deterrent value in knowing that some teachers might be armed?


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