Shootings at Chardon, Ohio high school prompt calls for answers, but first we need to ask the right question

The most negligent, unprofessional, obscene words anyone can ever say are: "It will never happen here." - Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

The nationwide media are reporting that five children have been shot at Chardon High School, and that three of the victims have died. Early reports indicate that the shooter used a .22 caliber handgun in the shooting.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their family and friends, and all the students, teachers, and community in Chardon.

In the wake of this latest school violence tragedy, many will inevitably ask "How can we stop these events from happening?" While there are preventative measures that can and should be undertaken to "harden" the target, asking how we can stop these events is ultimately akin to asking "What can we do so that people are never mad, upset, distraught, or troubled?" The simple answer is that, ultimately, we can't. As such, we had better focus on what we can do. With that goal in mind, a more productive question is "How do we stop these events quickly so that we can limit the damage when they do happen?"

The most critical aspect in stopping a mass killing is time. The slower the response, the more people will be injured or killed. On average 4-5 people will be injured for every minute the attack is allowed to continue. Waiting a few minutes for police to arrive can significantly increase the body count. The way to stop a killer is to confront him as quickly as possible. While armed response is likely to be more effective against an armed killer, any confrontation is better than letting a killer continue at will.

Ideally the school will have school resource officers (SRO) in the school. These are police that have additional training for the specific job of school safety and security. But that costs money that some school districts don’t have.

Where money is a driving issue, schools have plenty of other options and authority. They need to enable people to effectively act to stop a killer. Chardon police have indicated that a teacher chased the gunman out of the school where he quit and gave himself up. We applaud the teacher for taking action which appears to have disrupted the killer's plan and saved others from being shot. We are thankful the teacher didn't need a gun, but are concerned the next teacher and students may not be so fortunate.

"While we believe that police, military and law-abiding citizens with a concealed handgun license (including parents, teachers and administrators) can be trained to carry concealed in our schools, educating the public on the merits of such reform will take time," said Jim Irvine, chairman of Buckeye Firearms Association. "Short of legislative action, however, many don't realize that schools currently have the authority to grant permission to arm any one they want as a layer of defense. For example, if the school has employees who are former police or military, or a citizen with advanced training, they have the authority to use them right now, today, in Ohio. Perpetrators are often discouraged from even starting an attack where they know they will find armed opposition. A critical event like today should remind all schools to take a look at all options to limit carnage in such events."

It is critical to note that no one item or approach will stop all violence. What is needed is a layered approach to security so that there are many opportunities to stop/prevent a mass killing event in the planning stages, and if all those fail, to stop the event as quickly as possible to limit the casualties. We encourage parents to ask their school what tools are available to stop a killer inside their school while they are waiting on police to arrive.

FLASHBACK Oct. 3, 2006: The uncomfortable truth about school shootings

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