After a high profile shooting like the massacre at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, it’s not uncommon for a lot of bad information to come out in the media and even from investigators who don’t yet have a handle on what happened. That’s why we usually add warnings to our initial reports when these things happen. Too many people jump to too many conclusions in the chaos that later turn out to be dead wrong.
Sometimes the response and behavior of law enforcement during the incident is potentially embarrassing or even criminal. In those situations, obstruction of the investigation and subsequent reporting makes things even worse.
So we’ve been waiting and watching the aftermath of Uvalde as the stories and narratives have continued to shift and change and more facts have emerged. Yesterday, a good deal more of what happened that day was revealed and it’s not a flattering portrayal of the law enforcement response.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has conducted a thorough investigation of the Uvalde shooting and response, and presented their findings to a special legislative committee. It’s important to note that these findings specifically excluded witness testimony and other aspects that could introduce error. Instead, they relied only on that which was recorded from security cameras, body cameras, radio traffic, 911 calls, etc., and solid conclusions that could be drawn from examination of physical evidence.
Here’s a succinct distillation of what the police did — and didn’t do — that awful day . . .
— KXAN News (@KXAN_News) June 21, 2022
The facts of what happened in Uvalde as they have most recently been presented are clear: there was an abject failure to protect students at every level. Building design and maintenance, emergency procedures, building plans, police training, and the response itself were all extremely suboptimal.
But, the police response — which could have saved innocent lives despite other failures — is the most shocking of all. The equipment needed to enter the classroom and neutralize the killer was ready on scene for about an hour before any attempt was made to do so.
A Pattern of Behavior
This isn’t the first time this has happened. Most readers will be familiar with the “Broward Coward,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School resource officer Scot Peterson, who stood idly by outside as a shooter killed students and teachers inside. The Broward County Sheriff Department’s response that day was also contrary to all established protocols for dealing with active shooters.
In a non-school setting, there was also the police response to the 2016 Pulse Nightclub attack, which was heavily criticized for the failure to enter and neutralize the threat — for hours — while people inside the club bled out and died.
I know there will be police officers and their staunch supporters who will tell me these are isolated incidents, and that the cops in their cities and neighborhood aren’t cowards. Sadly, as Michael Graham at The Federalist points out, that too frequently isn’t the case. It’s part of a pattern that’s played out again and again and has cost lives.
In every other situation that doesn’t involve an active shooter, police are trained to do what it takes to get home at the end of their shift, putting their own lives first. Legally speaking, law enforcement officers have no duty to protect citizens at all. So, when an extremely rare, ultra-high stress exception to their routine happens — like a shooting in a local school — that cautious approach that has long been reinforced is a hard habit to break when it’s most critical to do so.
I know that there are many, if not most, officers who take their duty very seriously. Cops who can, have, and do run toward the sound of gunfire. But, there is enough risk aversion that permeates the profession to make relying solely on law enforcement a poor response to a mass shooting event.
The Only Sane Answer
“Hardening” schools — beefing up security measures to keep potential shooters out — certainly has its place in the mix of policies and tactics for keeping students safer. But it’s not a complete solution.
Worse, focusing only on hardening buildings can leave students with a learning environment that begins to resemble a prison more than a school.
Reasonable hardening measures, like better fencing, building access control, better windows, cameras, and tougher, lockable classroom doors are all good, reasonable steps. But there needs to be a Plan B in case those measures fail to keep a would be shooter out. Someone who very well may have permission to be in the building as a student, teacher, or staff member.
Arming teachers and staff members is the only credible and proven plan to engage an attacker and save lives when the worst happens. Unlike police, who have now compiled a demonstrably poor record of preventing and responding to these tragedies, the record of armed teachers is sterling.
No school with armed staff and teachers has even been attacked. The hysterical predictions of the gun control industry and anti-gun rights politicians of terrible things happening if teachers and staff are armed simply haven’t come true, even in states where no additional training is required for a teacher to carry beyond a basic concealed carry class.
In other words, gun-free zones can and do kill. Putting up signs and passing laws stops literally no one who is determined to murder innocents. Relying on gun prohibition is an invitation for those who don’t give a damn about laws to rack up a body count for fame, revenge, thrills, or whatever else might motivate them to carry out sick acts of violence.
Having a cop who’s on a glide path to retirement manning a metal detector station won’t stop a determined attacker with a handgun or a rifle. And no, the rifles won’t go away if we pass another law against them.
I know that this idea doesn’t make some people happy. The thought that we’ve gotten to a place where it’s necessary to arm teachers and school staff is sad and disturbing for many of those who grew up in a different time and place.
But that’s too bad, because we are now at a place where we have to say to hell with those people. Saving lives is more important that not offending delicate sensibilities. The opinions of effete politicians and the suburban women who vote for them simply aren’t as important as the safety of children and the general public.
“Gun-free” zones need to end and be replaced with reasonable security measures that can and do actually save lives. Gun silhouettes with red slashes through them do less than nothing to keep anyone safe anywhere.
Arming at least some teachers and staff at schools would give them a fighting chance of slowing and possibly stopping a shooter and protecting students and themselves. And if responding police can engage and help, if and when they arrive, so much the better.