80 seconds of wisdom about school shooters

19Dec13

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What happens when a brave, dedicated, armed citizen fights back against an untrained, unskilled, pathetic coward bent on murdering helpless innocents? The coward surrenders or winds up dead, and the killing is either stopped quickly or never has a chance to start.

Last week at the Arapahoe High School in Colorado a student named Karl Pierson walked into school and opened fire with a shotgun. He fired five rounds, badly wounding a beautiful young girl, before he saw a campus police officer advancing toward him. Pierson killed himself with his sixth round. The incident was captured on video, and lasted approximately 80 seconds from first shot to last.

80 seconds. And the mere presence of an armed “good guy” forced Pierson to stop targeting victims, and shoot himself instead.

This Arapahoe incident, among others, reinforced a belief I already had. My belief didn’t come from watching TV or reading articles. I’m a 19 year police officer and former active shooter instructor. I’ve attended advanced active shooter training, helped train many officers, and played the role of an active shooter in numerous high stress, extremely realistic simulation exercises. I’m also a 24-year Marine and Soldier, a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. I ain’t no expert on nuthin’, but I have a much better understanding of the active shooter threat than the average person. My years of training and experience helped me form this belief. This belief is so amazing, so earth-shattering, that I expect millions of people to read this, gasp, and tumble over in shock.

Prepare yourselves. Here it comes.

“When a coward is trying to shoot up a school, at least one person already at the school should have a gun and shoot back.”

I know, I know. Pure heresy. I have to be wrong on this. Those who don’t want armed teachers or even armed police in schools must be right. Some of them, like American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, insist that having armed police on school grounds doesn’t make schools safer (http://wvmetronews.com/2012/12/27/no-guns-in-schools/). After the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre made his infamous “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” claim, a veritable human wave of legislators and celebrities mounted ceaseless attacks against him and his simplistic belief that armed good guys actually protect the innocent.

Ms. Weingarten and many of those legislators and celebrities must understand this problem better than me. They must understand better than Wayne LaPierre. Weingarten and her allies apparently have vast knowledge of and experience with gun violence.

They have vast knowledge and experience because they went to college. Then when they were done, they went to college. Then after that, they went to college. Some of them were so dedicated that between college semesters, they went to college. In college, they talked a lot. They talked to other people in college, and to college professors. They undoubtedly had many interesting conversations with other insulated idealists, who repeated the same uninformed opinions everyone else had. Then, when these people graduated from college, they went into the academic world, or politics, or acting.

And by golly, their opinions about armed good guys in schools count more than mine. Because they’re educated. And they’re academics. Or politicians. Or actors.

I, on the other hand, foolishly wasted my entire adult life serving my community as a cop and my country as a Marine and Soldier. I spent countless hours on ranges and in training exercises. I wandered deserted streets late at night looking for crimes in progress, and found a LOT. And I spent almost two years at war.

None of this taught me anything, of course.

Wounded Arapahoe HS student Claire Davis

Wounded Arapahoe HS student Claire Davis

My worthless, unqualified opinion is obviously insignificant in the face of mighty academics, politicians and actors who fired a gun once on a movie set. If I was more educated, maybe I’d see the ridiculous fallacy of, oh, putting armed and trained good guys in all schools to defend our children. If I had taken statistics, I’m sure I’d realize that the murders of 20 children and 6 educators in a school with no armed guards, during a massacre that went on for several minutes, is a better outcome than one wounded student in a shooting that an armed police officer ended in 80 seconds.

I should actually apologize for the tone of this post. I try not to be snarky, sarcastic or insulting toward my ideological opponents. I’m not a member of the NRA, nor am I an ultraconservative (I’m agnostic and support drug legalization, so how conservative can I be?). I’m definitely not anti-education. And I like to think I’m a pretty reasonable guy. But I get frustrated at people who absolutely refuse to accept reality. Sorry guys, but in this case Wayne LaPierre was right.

Those who oppose allowing armed teachers or police officers in schools tend to be the same people who think we conservatives are the mental equivalent of “flat earthers”. They seem to view us as ignorant hicks with no understanding of the real world. Then they turn around and insist that the best way to protect our children from school shooters is to make our schools more attractive targets. They think it’s better for a murderer to kill helpless victims for several minutes until police show up, than to have an armed teacher or police officer already there stop the killing as quickly as possible. They advocate policies that make more Sandy Hooks and oppose policies that make Arapahoes. They honestly believe the best way to keep my children safe is to turn them into helpless victims.

Remember that knuckle-dragging conservatives like me are evil morons who want children to die. But liberals who don’t want guns in schools are geniuses who love children. That’s why my fellow knuckle-draggers and I strongly support the policies that saved children’s lives at Arapahoe, while our super-genius child-loving opponents so ardently support the stupid rules that helped kill 20 defenseless children at Sandy Hook.

The Arapahoe shooter had a shotgun, 125 rounds, three Molotov cocktails and a machete. He had plans to attack people in several locations at the school. Had my opponents had their way, he could have shot many more innocent people, burned them alive, or hacked them to death. Instead, one good guy with a gun on campus ended the threat in 80 seconds.

Shucks, maybe I’m one o’ them thar conservative country bumpkins who ain’t never learnt much. But it certainly seems to me that the result produced by one armed good guy at Arapahoe High School was better than the result of having no armed good guys at Sandy Hook. So instead of spending years in college learning the wrong answer, maybe some people need to spend about 80 seconds learning that armed good guys in schools really are the best way to stop armed bad guys in schools.

UPDATE 12/22/13: Claire Davis died of her injuries yesterday. Rest in peace, Ms. Davis.

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29 Responses to “80 seconds of wisdom about school shooters”

  1. 1 SPEMack

    I am one of those conservative country bumpkins who ain’t never learnt much despity seven years of college, and I see it plain as day that when a coward is faced by someone with a weapon and the will to use it, they generally off themselves.

    • Mack,

      You’re wrong. Obviously, you need more time in college so you’ll see the light. πŸ™‚

      What’s the academic environment like in GA? I would think it would be a little more conservative than most places.

      • 3 SPEMack

        I feel like Statesboro, Milledgeville, Athens, Atlanta, and Valdosta are purple islands in a vast sea of red.

        Not too terribly bad, but as a poli-sci guy, there were plenty of moments when I either want to pound my head into my desk or secretly liked being called a new age imperialist.

        But the hard sciences were all more Republicans than Karl Rove.

  2. 4 CBI

    Weingarten, et al., “went to college”, as you say, but they did not receive an adequate education there. Their educations were mainly in how to survive and thrive in a political bureaucracy. Sad, but true.

    Many colleges and professors no longer have the purpose of educating, but of credentialing. Credentials can be a good thing, when they have meaning, but too often mean little more than time spent and opinion regurgitation. This is especially true in the “education” departments and perhaps the majority of liberal arts.

    I say this as someone with a fair number of credentials and experience (BA in liberal arts, PhD in a hard science, retired naval officer (submarines), certified pistol instructor.) I think part of education is to learn how to listen to and consider the experiences and education of others. When it comes to situations like the “active shooter”, an educated person is one who at least thoughtfully considers the opinions of those familiar with the topic.

    • CBI,

      Since I only spent two years in college, I really don’t know from personal experience if what you’re saying about credentialing is true. But I’ve known a lot of people who went to college just for the degree and the raise that comes with it, and I was urged by many people to “just go get a degree in anything, it doesn’t matter what”. So I’m pretty sure you’re right, often it’s just about the pedigree instead of the education.

      You’re absolutely right that we should listen to people with extensive knowledge of their field. And I think our more educated population feels the same way, except for the field of gun violence. If you look at places like the Huffington Post, you see tons of people running their mouths about guns, while having absolutely zero understanding of them.

      Thanks for your comment, and for your service.

  3. 6 Tim

    Well said, Mr. Hernandez! Thank you!

  4. I am happy we don’t have (untill now) these school shootings in France, but we definitely have the same politicians, actors, legislators and other celebrities than you.
    What ever you think, what ever you’ve experienced,, trained for, they will allways consider you with contempt,just because they are liberals and you’re not.
    Being liberals is their only and sufficient virtue and glory in life. They morally are above you, and don’t have to prove anything because they are liberals. They are sastified with being liberals and love the way the look at themself being liberals.
    They’ll probably think the victim in this case is the criminal who comited suicide and the real criminal is this school cop. They don’t bear the same software as ordinary people. And despite they are a small minority, they have a huge influence on society.
    (I hope this post is understandable!)

    ps: I hope this beautifull young lady will recover quickly- how seriously was she wounded?

    • 9 Jeff Wood

      Cher Marcel, your English is more than adequate, and your analysis is, I think, on target.

      You may remember a school shooting in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996. practically speaking it was my home town and I was living not far from the school when it happened. If the killer had known that I, or someone like me, had been in the school he would have stayed at home that day.

      Of course the Illiberals had their way, and my handguns were confiscated as part of the collective punishment which followed; and firearms crime in Britain soon spiked.

      I now live in another European country and will eventually qualify to join the other armed citizens who protect our community. I still burn at the insult paid me by the British government.

      • Yes I do remember,
        Of course when the gouvernment is confiscating weapons, only honest people give their gun back, and no legal restriction will prevent criminals from getting a gun, but only the good guys.

    • Marcel,

      Your post is very understandable, and your English is much better than my French. I’ve encountered many of the same types of people you describe. Their political views make them better the rest of us. They are, to put it mildly, tiresome to deal with.

      As Mike commented below, Ms. Davis is not in good shape. She’s in a coma, and suffered a horrible, close-range head wound.

  5. 12 Mike_C

    Mostly good points, Chris, but I would emphasize that not all academics are mush-brained, willfully blind fools who reject hard evidence in favor of their unsupported assertions and wishful thinking (response to and critique of that approach: Hope is not a plan). It just seems that way because the mushy-headed ones are the ones who tend to spout off for the news media and get publicity.

    I suppose I’ve spent my entire adult life in academics, specifically engineering and medicine. There are a lot more small-L libertarians or conservatives in engineering departments than one might think based on the sorts of statements that our administrative masters put out. (And some proportion of them are secretly rolling their eyes as they spout their progressive sanctimony.) Frankly in not a few places it’s the twisted modern-day equivalent of McCarthyism. As to the political mix in the hard sciences, it varies. The liberal arts however tend to be just that, and places such as Sociology and Education especially so.

    What CBI said about education (an educated person is one who at least thoughtfully considers the opinions of those familiar with the topic) should be true, but ironically (though not surprisingly) in many cases the very people who make the loudest noises about freedom of speech are exactly the ones who are the first to demand stifling of dissenters and the most eager to pillory their intellectual opponents as subhuman. (For but one recent example check out how student activists at Brown University shut down a scheduled talk by NYC Police Chief Ray Kelly because they objected to NYPD’s Stop, Talk and Frisk policy. Don’t like it, fine. Hear what Kelly has to say and answer his points. Hell, fisk his talk, if you’re intellectually up to the task. But horrors, one might be exposed to other points of view, or even hear some persuasive arguments against your local groupthink. Easier and safer to gather a mob to shout the man down.) So much for universities as a place for unfettered discussion and exchange of ideas.

    Back to the Arapahoe shooter. Interesting how a number of the news sources self-censored and some actually went back and redacted the statements in the initial articles about the shooter’s serious left-wing political tendencies. They’ve tried to make Dead Loser (I will not contribute to his 15 minutes of notoriety) look like some sort of right winger when in fact he was a vociferous advocate of collectivism.

    @Marcel Fabry: I too wish Claire Davis a speedy and complete recovery, but it doesn’t look good. Apparently she was shot in the head a close range with a 12-gauge shotgun.

    • Mike,

      I know my post came off as anti-education, but it really isn’t. My issue is with people who have formal education unleavened by experience. I think our best and brightest are those who know both the theory and practice of a particular subject. The people who only know theory and have never tested it against reality make me want to chew my fingers off in frustration.

      Your perspective as an educational “insider” is extremely interesting. I know you’re right about most educators being slightly left or right of center, and you’re correct that the loonies (i.e. Ward Churchill) get all the attention. But one thing you mentioned confirms some of my fears. You said some professors are rolling their eyes as they spout progressivism. If they don’t agree with it, why are they spouting it? What kind of atmosphere do they work in that forces them to preach something they don’t believe in? That comment suggests to me that the progressives control the political message fed to students, at least where you teach.

      What you said about Brown University is depressing. “Tolerant” students simply shut out any dissenting voices. That reminds me of military recruiters being mobbed and forced off college campuses during the Iraq War.

      Just curious, would someone like me be welcome as a speaker at your school?

      Thanks for sharing your observations. No joke, your comments were some of the most interesting I’ve ever received.

      • 14 Mike_C

        Chris, your post did not come across to me as anti-education by any means. As to the “eye-rolling” part, I’m sorry I was unclear. What I meant was that I suspect some of the administrative level people burbling about the latest initiative know it’s bullshit, but cheer lead anyway. Why? For the same reason that some O6 endorses a politics-driven plan he knows is crap that will get soliders (or Marines, or airmen or whatever) killed. Because he wants his stars badly enough to betray those he’s supposed to be looking out for.

        As to actual instructors, I think (again my opinion, not supported by rigorous, statistically valid sampling) most of the progressive types really do believe what they are saying, god help us. (Just goes to show that advanced degrees do not necessarily come with commensurate sense.) Those of us not so “progressive” have to tread carefully. Leftish orthodoxy does indeed pervade, and often rules, our more prestigious institutions of higher learning. Anything further I’m happy to discuss in more detail in private email.

    • Sorry Mike, forgot to address your point about some media outlets not reporting that the shooter was an avowed socialist. I did read that, and as far as I know it was only one local paper that did that. I’m sure that the national media is in no rush to tell the public that this guy was an “outspoken socialist” when they can just report that he was “outspoken”.

  6. Preaching fluent common sense is a distinct handicap with the self-designated intelligentsia, because most of them can’t think.

    Other than that little flaw, that was a rhetorical WP round to center mass.

    • Aesop,

      I’m not sure if the problem is inability to think, or if it’s the willful generation of an illogical force field that blocks out anything they don’t want to believe.

      Maybe it’s both.

      • 18 JimP

        The latest Imprimus has a take on “Education” …. how modern education is “less a matter of transmitting an objective and culturally sanctioned body of knoledge, and more a matter of helping individuals learn to construct their own realities.” That quote was taken from a passage of the 1991 Teacher’s Guide for Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition, and published by the College Board- which administers the SAT exam.

        “Education” is no longer learning facts and learning how to practically apply them- it is learning to make stuff up. Seriously.

        …… and they borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars for this?

        Who in their right mind would make such loans? Oh, right: The Government!

        The Crash is coming. It is unavoidable at this point. The only question is whether a long, drawn out, shallow, wheels up landing is preferable to bailing out and building a new plane.

  7. 19 zuk

    Is anyone else bothered by the sight of innocent children forced to stand in the cold with their hands in the air? There are a LOT of pix of the kids waiting in line, hands up, before their pat down and (I’m guessing) reentry to the school. What is accomplished by this? I am deeply disturbed by this image, when these kids should be getting help, NOT frisked.

    And holy crow, talk about militarization of the police, there are pics of the deputies wearing more armor than Chris does in his pictures from his deployment. And yet, the only one who looks aware and ready is one guy in a vest and jeans with an AR on the running track.

    Most of the photos I saw have gone away, but the last photo on this page has the kids in line:

    http://rt.com/usa/colorado-centennial-school-shooting-224/

    Here are some of the ones I saw originally :

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/17/karl-pierson-parents-shattered-arapahoe_n_4458805.html#slide=3231757

    24 of 43 is the guy on the track, 30 is the kids standing in line with hands up, 33 has some guys in armor, they have FBI on their backs. This was not in the slide show when I saw it, but there were several other pix that are gone now. Curious how long it took FBI to get onsite, and why they felt compelled to wear armor at that point?

    Why are the kids lined up outside anyway? Articles said they were in lockdown for “hours”, so what is the point of getting them outside, hands in the air? Looks like a target rich environment to me, and ALL THE GUYS IN ARMOR seems to suggest that they think shooting could break out at any minute. In that case, it makes NO SENSE AT ALL to have the kids out there.

    I’ve been disturbed by this since I first saw it, and I really would like to know the rationale and doctrine behind what I’m seeing in the photos.

    Thanks Chris,
    z

    • Zuk,

      I don’t know exactly what the officers did at Arapahoe, but I know why police have students come out with their hands up. The idea behind it is to identify a second shooter. In at least two school shootings, Columbine and Jonesboro, the shooters worked in pairs. One thing we’ve tried to train out of officers is the assumption that it’s always going to be just one guy. We do the same at bank robberies. Even if we only know of one robber in a bank full of hostages, all the hostages will still be handcuffed and searched to ensure a second suspect isn’t hidden among them.

      As far as the armor, yeah, you have a point. The only known threat was down, as far as I know no further threat had been identified, plenty of time had passed, so not much need for plate carriers.

      I’m actually working now on an essay about the militarization of police.

      Thanks for your comments Zuk, please come back anytime.

      • 21 zuk

        Thanks for the info Chris.

        I’d think that it would have been easier, and much more controllable in that case, to search them as they exited their locked down classrooms. That also reduces the risk of a sniper, or VBIED working the crowd. If the locked down classrooms are considered secure enough to stay in during the attack, then they should be secure enough to wait in until they are cleared. They were clearly standing around and moving with their hands up for a LONG time in air cold enough the snow wasn’t melting.

        Some of those guys (not just a small group), were wearing WAY more than just a plate carrier. They had everything including groin protection, (but they weren’t bomb suits.)

        I’m reminded of a picture that goes around the net periodically, one guy in street clothes standing in a group of guys wearing full hazmat gear. If it is dangerous enough to need hazmat, then NO ONE else should be standing there. Same goes for armor (beyond standard vest, or tac vest on a special response team).

        I had a friend that taught in LA, and I’ve been bothered every since I learned that their doctrine was if there is a bomb threat, evacuate (and have everyone stand around in groups outside) but for a sniper threat, go to lockdown. Pretty clear to me that if you wanted to kill kids, call in the opposite of your attack and then let the school put the kids in your kill zone.

        At least in the case of an active shooter, we have, unfortunately, lots of evidence of what works–armed confrontation of the shooter, as soon as possible.

        Thanks again for the opportunity to ask the questions. I really am deeply disturbed by the images of the response.

        zuk

    • 22 MJSPDRPIG

      A quick check of the weather in the Denver area on Dec 16 shows the the temp was 63deg and sunny which is quite warm especially at that altitude. While the first priority of responding officers is to neutralize the threat,ASR (Active Shooter Response) does not end there and there is still ALOT of work that has to be done from ensuring that no additional threats exist, finding injured victims ect ect ect…. I would guess that you have never cleared a school structure Mr. Zuk and therefore have no idea how long all this should take. Nor do you have an idea at what point during this process the video of the students being removed from the school occured. I am very equally sure that those officers that were in all that “Scary” equipment that offended you had not had the opportunity to return to their cruisers and properly secure that equipment.

  8. 23 ndp0911

    Thank you, Chris. Expressed my thoughts almost to a “T”.

  9. 25 MACV S-2

    I just returned from a medical appointment, the hospital that runs the clinics has posted no weapons allowed signs. It bothers me a lot because almost all the recent shootings have taken place in gun free zones, ie, schools, theatres, hospitals. Being a knuckle dragger myowndamseff, I make a direct correlation there, eg, gun free zones are not a safe place. Brigid over at “Home on the Range” did an excellent piece on that a while back.
    So when I take my pants off, the medicos see an empty holster. Best they don’t search my pants. Or my socks. Or jacket. And I won’t give them cause to do that.

  10. 26 JKosprey

    I’ve had this discussion numerous times in the past week. It seems to me that most of the opposition is emotional or visceral- I keep hearing talk about how teachers couldn’t possibly be trained well enough- and when I suggest that they undergo similar training to Law Enforcement (A truncated FLETC class for instance) it still doesn’t fly.

    My girlfriend lived in that area of Colorado until she was 12, and this shooting seemed to hit home for her a bit. The other night she asked me, “Why do people shoot up schools?” I gave her a very long-winded answer that ultimately boiled down to “People do bad things- and schools are easy targets.”

    She’s not a gun person. In three years I still haven’t convinced her to come shooting with me. But I think she’s finally beginning to understand why I carry a gun every day…and I think she’s glad that I do.

  11. 27 Wraith

    I guess I don’t get how this logic thing works, either.

    So, we’re going to gather all our kids together in one building, and put a “Gun Free Zone” sign in front of it, letting every maniac out there know that these kids are completely defenseless, and that this building is nothing more than a shooting gallery for those who’ve embraced evil…

    …and this is seen as a good idea to the college-‘educated’ elites?

    Oooookay. Glad we got that cleared up. πŸ™„

  12. Eric and Dylan, Eric especially, were in and out of
    trouble with the law, Eric was reported to the police numerous times by
    a fellow student and the student’s family for harassing and threatening them with violence, and Eric had a website that the police were
    made aware of wherein he wrote openly about his various murderous fantasies.
    Starting out by decrying Howard Stern and his shock-jock
    tendencies, Thompson has since moved on to video games, first representing the parents of students killed in
    1997’s Heath High School shooting. Considering that they were first timers to the whole mass murder thing, and considering that they were just a couple of kids, they did a decent job of putting
    this whole plan together and executing it.


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