To the Editor: Schools need armed protectors
Editor's Note: The following letter to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch was submitted by Buckeye Firearms Association's Jim Irvine and published on December 28, 2013 in response to a letter written by Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence founder Toby Hoover, in which she attempted to dismiss the importance of Buckeye Firearms Association's survey which revealed that dozens of Ohio schools are now authorizing concealed carry for certain people.
In last Saturday's letter, "Arming staff endangers students," Toby Hoover made many incorrect statements leading to the wrong conclusion about school safety. Looking at actual events, we see that an armed response is the only reliable way to stop an active killer.
On Dec. 13, a lone attacker walked into Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., intent on doing harm. He carried a shotgun, 125 rounds of ammunition, a machete and Molotov cocktails.
He intended to kill many people but failed. His lone casualty was 17-year-old senior Claire Davis.
Colorado's new gun-control laws failed to stop the killer from acquiring his gun. The ban on standard-capacity magazines had no effect on the shotgun or bandolier full of shells he wore.
Any steps taken to identify the killer and intervene failed. Controlling the entry point to the school, keeping the killer outside and partitioning off the building failed. Every preventive measure failed.
That is not to say they are not important, but in this particular event, they all failed. The same was true in Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The critical difference between Sandy Hook and Centennial was an armed responder inside the building. This is precisely what security experts have suggested for years.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said of the Centennial killer, "His intent was evil, and his evil intent was to harm multiple individuals."
Ditto the killers in other school shootings. Laws don't stop evil people. To accomplish that task, we must enable good people to win the fight.
In Colorado, Deputy Sheriff James Englert was serving as a school resource officer in the building. He was armed with a gun. He responded to the threat. He confronted the would-be mass killer, disrupting his plans. He took control away from the killer, who realized he could do no more harm and then killed himself.
Having a good person armed with a gun inside the school worked. The officer stopped the killer and saved lives. The policy to have him paid off.
School resource officers are expensive. The lives an armed person saves are priceless.
While such officers are a great resource, the reality is that many districts simply cannot afford to put one in every building. Authorizing qualified parents, teachers or administrators to carry guns offers great protection at little or no cost to the district. The Buckeye Firearms Foundation spent more than $100,000 this year training educators and will do so again in 2014. The program is called FASTER (Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response), and it works.
School resource officers are asking to be included in the program, and police are asking for similar training, because most don't get the type of training FASTER provides.
The best option is to employ school resource officers together with armed staff. Together, they protect the entire school, just as armed pilots and federal air marshals protect airplanes.
The educators in Newtown, Conn., acted with all the bravery and love for their children that Englert did in Colorado. But they didn't have a gun. Unable to stop their killer, they died. Then 20 innocent children were killed before the armed response arrived.
For those who rely on a fast response time from police, consider that the Colorado incident was over in 80 seconds. On average, someone dies every 12 seconds during active-killer events. Newtown was right on this timeline. To limit death, effective response must come from within.
Police arrived in Centennial just as they did in Newtown — after the killing had ended. The difference is that in Centennial, there already was an armed responder controlling the school. In Newtown, there were 26 dead bodies.
Armed response is not about guns; it's about safety. In time, every school will have it.
Buckeye Firearms Association