Confession: I expected to be slammed with opposition over last week’s blog post on school shooting solutions. And then it didn’t happen. In fact, people shared the post over 140 times making it my third most popular post ever, behind Sex and Bread.
So today, in my follow-up post on the subject, I’m offering several more helpful ideas. Including the one I think is a total winner.
The “Duh” Ideas
- Vote: Pick the politicians with the best ideas on increasing student safety and vote for them.
- Speak Your Mind: Do what the kids in Florida are doing: Testify. Testify before your state legislators. Call the offices of your representatives and tell them you want something done. March.
- Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Consider making a donation to the candidates who line up with your views on this topic. Who has the best ideas in your opinion? Send them $20. Or more.
- Support retailers who are taking action: Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart are doing this very thing. Both companies announced this week they will no longer be selling AR15s. Praise God and yay!
- Run, Joe, Run: If you’re burning up with passion for this issue, consider entering the race. I’m pretty sure the Florida youngsters will be running for office at some point. And maybe the one millenial who told me this week: “This country is about to change. Scumbags and old people need to step aside.”
Lest you poo-poo some or all of my ideas, please remember my basic premise of brainstorming: Every idea has some merit, at least initially.
Driver’s Ed…for Shooters
People are required to have a driver’s license in order to operate a vehicle. So why aren’t people with guns required to have a shooter’s license?
I believe before an individual can purchase a gun, they should be required to do the following:
- Complete a gun-safety class
- Pass a written exam on gun safety and usage
- Pass a practical exam proving they are competent to operate a gun
We register our cars. Why not our guns? According to the Giffords Law Center, “Laws requiring gun owners to register their firearms ensure gun owner accountability and help law enforcement solve crimes and disarm criminals. Despite the clear advantages inherent in registration laws, few states have such laws on the books—and some prohibit them outright.”
The Australia National Firearm Agreement included gun registration in its three-prong solution to end gun violence: “…tight control on semi-automatic and fully automatic weapons; a national registry of firearm owners; and a buyback program so that Australians could sell guns back to the government.”
Australia has not had a mass shooting since implementing the agreement in 1996, by the way.
Charge Property Tax on Guns
This from Tony Bear. He thinks in addition to paying property tax on our homes and autos, we should be required to pay property tax on any guns we own. The first installment of your (gun)property tax would be due when you purchase a gun. After that, you will owe tax on your gun annually for as long as you own it.
Also, in the future, you can only purchase additional guns if you are up to date on all property taxes.
Every state requires every vehicle be insured so that in the event of an accident, funds will be available for the party at fault to pay for the damage sustained by the claimant.
I propose we do the same for guns.
And as is the case for more expensive vehicles, I think more expensive weapons should carry higher premiums. Not only that, I believe weapons with the propensity to do more damage should also carry higher premiums.
Jeff Yang has similar thoughts on the subject:
Legislation that requires mandatory insurance for gun ownership — liability protection parallel to that required for use and operation of every other dangerous object in our society, from motor vehicles to heavy industrial equipment — is the answer to that need, giving victims of accident or intentional mayhem compensation for injury (and survivors, for loss of life), as well as a way to cover hospital bills and rehabilitation, and as is too often the case, funeral costs.
Treat AR-15s like suppressors.
According to my research, most gun owners purchase silencers in order to “protect their hearing.” I’m thinking there are probably creepier reasons for wanting them, but let’s not go there right this second.
A friend recently told me it is way harder to get a silencer than a gun. He said the ATF requires: a completed application, interview with a law enforcement officer, photo of self, check for $200, fingerprints. The process can take months. Talk about your mandatory waiting period.
My question is, why is it harder to get a gun accessory than a gun?
Another of Tony Bear’s suggestions is restricting the type of ammunition magazine “regular” citizens can buy. He recommends making it illegal to own magazines with more than 3-5 rounds.
“Why would any normal person need multiple 20-round magazines?” he asked. Why, indeed?
Tony Bear is on to something. This article about the Las Vegas shooting points out that “states that have enacted magazine restrictions are associated with fewer mass shooting events.”
Let the CDC resume gun violence research.
Back in 1996, our elected officials put an end to the Center for Disease Control’s research on gun-violence as a public health problem. Basically, Congress cut their budget by the exact amount they typically spent in a year on gun-violence research. You can read about it here.
Politics and legislation aside, let’s get
Design Safer Schools
After my school shooting post last week, my artsy friend Jacki commented, “I think we need to redesign schools. Most classes have one way in, one way out. Like shooting fish in a bowl. Exit each classroom directly outside, more surveillance, zones that can be locked down and can’t be crossed but each zone can be exited to the outside. One way into the school with detectors and cameras. I have many other ideas. Will this cost money? Maybe. Will it save lives, yes.”
My teacher friend Jill told me at her grade school, some of the classrooms are “open-concept.” That means “No doors and no real walls.” Super bad idea, in my opinion, in this day and age when we’re having one gun-incident a week in US schools.
I have a friend, I’ll call her Amy, who has taught high school classes in both West Virginia and Virginia. She sees strengths and weaknesses in both schools/states. The administration at her school in Virginia claims the building is secure but Amy says, “…you can get in a thousand different ways.”
On the other hand, at her high school in West Virginia, “…the principal did make the campus more secure but at the same time the students joked it was a prison.” After the Parkland, Florida shooting, I hope the jokes stopped.
Copy-Cat the “Safest High School in America”
Dubbed the “safest high school in America,” what are the safety features of Southwestern High School in Shelbyville, Indiana?
- emergency alert fobs for school staff (notifies the entire school and local law enforcement)
- bulletproof classroom doors
- classroom device to “tell law enforcement their classroom is safe, signal they need medical aid, or ask for help if they’ve seen the suspect.”
- With a live video feed, “…the county (law enforcement) can see the shooter’s movements and if necessary, launch what they call ‘hot zones.’ Dispatchers can shoot smoke out of cannons to distract and limit the visibility of the suspect in hallways.”
This is what the executive director of this community’s Sheriff’s Association, Steve Luce, says about the program:
“Your children deserve to be safe, you as parents deserve to have your kids come home safely to you after school, your teachers deserve to be teachers and not bodyguards…”
Practice Makes Perfect
The first time I ever heard the term “lockdown” in reference to a school was on September 11, 2001. Tony Bear called me at home to tell me the girls were in lockdown inside their schools. After that, though, there were lockdown drills on a regular basis.
My friend Jill says her school runs “mock practice drills.” She remembers one instructor saying hiding (together) isn’t the best idea because it puts more targets in one place.
Some schools take safety a step further.
Go Ask A.L.I.C.E.
I know of two schools in my area that have gone through A.L.I.C.E. training. During one local training, “…local police and the FBI fired off rounds in the school so we would know what they sounded like and how they sounded in different parts of the building.”
This kind of training also prepares students and staff for severe weather incidents as well as acts of terrorism.
First (Aid) Things First
“Require teachers to be CPR-certified and first-aid trained for their teaching certification.” My teacher friend Amy offered this counsel.
Though Amy is thankful her West Virginia high school provided A.L.I.C.E. training, she believes West Virginia should follow Virginia’s lead in another area–requiring teachers to be medically-trained in order to be licensed. And not just for school shooter incidents.
She knew of one incident where a student “coded and the “…teacher just stood there and said she didn’t know what to do.” First-aid and CPR classes equip teachers for medical emergencies like this.
It’s in the bag.
A grad school friend, who also happens to be a former Marine, is all about “Tactical Emergency Casualty Care.” He suggests “precise and thorough medical training” to equip individuals to deal with things like “…bleeding out, compromised airways (usually from blasts), and tension pneumo/hemothoraces (sucking chest wounds).”
I initially hesitated to quote him verbatim because his terminology is so graphic. Then I remembered the article in The Atlantic, written by a doctor who worked on the victims in the Florida school shooting last month.
My Marine friend’s counsel came to mind when I read a story on NPR.org. Like Southwestern High School in Indiana, a school district in West Hartford, Connecticut is taking safety seriously, including stocking up on trauma bags. “These are tools the military often uses in battle and include clotting agents to stop massive wounds.”
This school in Connecticut is implementing several other innovative ideas:
- glazing windows so they can’t be smashed in
- making sure classroom doors can be locked from the inside when traditionally they only locked from the outside
- cutting hedges low to improve the line of sight from inside the school
- labelling classroom doors on the outside so first responders know what and who is inside
These upgrades aren’t free but remember, West Hartford is in Connecticut, where Sandy Hook elementary school is located. “After the Sandy Hook killings, Connecticut set up a grant program to help schools pay for security upgrades. It has provided about $54 million to help over 1,200 schools in the state.”
I have an innovative idea to pay for school safety upgrades. On our tax returns, there’s always the option to give $3 to the “Presidential Election Campaign.” Pffft! I say let’s change that to the “School Safety Campaign.” Bam!
The Gift of Gab
In my stack of brainstorm idea cards is one on hostage negotiation. Might it prove helpful to have someone on staff at each school who has been trained in hostage negotiation?
In times of a hostile takeover, this individual–who has been trained to listen actively and establish rapport–could speak over the school-wide intercom to the shooter, in an effort to prevent or mitigage loss of life.
Open Lines of Communication
Amy, my West Virginia/Virginia teacher friend, said her West Virginia school utilized the Remind app for teacher-parent-student communication.
I’m not sure what the Remind protocol is in times of lockdown, but personally, if there was a confirmed school emergency, I’d want to know. So at the very least, I could pray.
Amy sent me a link for purchasing magnetic door locks for classrooms. You can buy them on Amazon.
At $8 a piece, these would no doubt be less expensive than replacing all the door locks in every school in the country.
Can’t Touch This
My mother’s heart wants to bulletproof everything. In every room. In every school. Of course that isn’t financially feasible. However, in most of the school shooting stories I’ve read, students and staff take shelter under tables.
With that in mind, I am all for bulletproof tables in classrooms. Use one to barricade the door and the others for students and staff to hide beneath. I Googled “bulletproof classroom tables” and found this website.
“C’mon! Everybody in the storm cellar!”
Shooter shelters. Every classroom should have one, in my opinion. And not just for random, one-guy-with-big-guns situations. These would also come in handy for bomb threats. And tornados.
Some schools in the state of Oklahoma agree with me. According to newsweek.com, “Healdton Public Schools have shelters that can fit 35 students and two teachers in the event of a shooting or deadly tornado.” Great minds think alike.
School Supplies List: Pencils,Notebooks, Bulletproof Backpack
It’s hard to believe, but bulletproof backpacks are now a thing. The good news is, Amazon carries them. The bad news is, they are temporarily out of stock.
In junior high school, I took Latin as my foreign language. That’s where I first heard of the Testudo Formation (see picture). In an emergency situation, bulletproof backpacks could be used in this fashion. I think. I hope.
The Penultimate Possibility (My #1 pick)
A gun violence restraining order. Last month the Pittsburgh Post Gazette wrote that, “In 81 percent of the incidents, at least one person had information that the attacker was thinking about or planning a school attack.”
According to The National Review, if a gun violence restraining order was in place, it would allow “… a person in a close relationship with a gun-owner to seek a court order that allows police to temporarily seize guns when there is evidence that the gun-owner is a danger to himself or others.”
Though this sounds like a fantastic idea to me, this possibility makes many proponents of gun-rights nervous. However, the article goes on to say: “A good GVRO statute should clearly protect the gun-owner’s due process rights by, among other things, establishing a high burden of proof (clear and convincing evidence, preferably), allowing the gun-owner to contest the claims against him, and confining the universe of people who can seek a GVRO to people in defined relationships with the gun-owner.”
Just last night on NPR.org this idea was discussed in an interview with Miami-Dade County Judge Steve Leifman, who chairs the Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Mental Health.
If you don’t have time to read the entire transcript, here’s one of Liefman’s key quotes:
“Look; we don’t allow convicted felons to own firearms. We don’t allow people that have been convicted of domestic violence to own firearms. And so I don’t think anyone that may be exhibiting at a particular moment a very serious situation should probably be able to hold onto their firearm. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be some kind of due process to make sure that happens, but I do think a lot of what we do is balancing rights against protecting the public.”
Five states already have this legislation on the books. And lives have been saved as a result. “In a study published last year, researchers at Duke, Yale, Connecticut and Virginia estimated that dozens of suicides have been prevented by the law, roughly one for every 10 gun seizures carried out. They said such laws ‘could significantly mitigate the risk’ posed by the small number of legal gun owners who might suddenly pose a significant danger.”
There’s no place like home.
Of course, there is another way to ensure the safety of your school-aged children. Homeschool them.
I asked my homeschooling friend Jennifer, a preschool teacher in her pre-mother life, if school shootings were one of the reasons her family homeschools. This was her gracious response:
“We as a family try to not make big decisions out of fear of what might happen. So our reasoning behind beginning to homeschool was in the belief that their education would be better focused on their individual strengths, if they were homeschooled.
In any large-group learning environment, the material begins to be watered down to appeal to the majority. It’s just the nature of dealing with 25 different learning styles.
So, our decision wasn’t made out of fear of bullying, shootings, or fear of the indoctrination with secular agenda. Yet, I’m afraid to say, we are the minority. I hear from homeschoolers across this state and others that they have made the choice to homeschool because of an event or fear of an event. In fact, this week alone, with the teacher strike (in West Virginia), many more families are investigating homeschooling as an alternative to large learning environments.”
And finally, there’s this toddler on a tightrope of hope.
When I checked Facebook this morning, my grad school professor, Richard Tillinghast (the most interesting man in the world) had posted a link to a New York Times article that said:
“In a remarkable meeting, the president veered wildly from the N.R.A. playbook in front of giddy Democrats and stone-faced Republicans. He called for comprehensive gun control legislation that would expand background checks to weapons purchased at gun shows and on the internet, keep guns from mentally ill people, secure schools and restrict gun sales for some young adults. He even suggested a conversation on an assault weapons ban.”
That would be awesome. Awe-mazing. But really, how do we know this isn’t just another example of “fake news?”
Update: My super talented musician-friend Chris Haddox recently entered a song in NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest. It’s a story song about Mikhail Kalishnikov, the man who invented the AK47. Chris was kind enough to give me permission to link to the song here. Have a listen here.