Moving forward: If more gun control laws are not the answer, what is?

by Jim Irvine

The sorrow over the killing of 27 people, including 20 elementary school children, in Newtown, Connecticut has started to change to anger. Typically, pro-gun and anti-gun forces are digging in their heels for the fight ahead. But we owe it to those children and their families to learn from the failures that allowed so many innocent people to be slaughtered.

President Obama stated that "we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” It is time to start down that road. While we are still learning the details, let us look at what we already know.

In every event, there are things that were helpful, and others that were harmful. Let us embrace and strengthen that which was good, and reject and discard that which was not.

Connecticut has heavy restrictions on semi-auto firearms. Importation and possession of most military-style guns are prohibited. The state ranks fifth in the Brady Campaign state rankings, scoring 58 out of 100 points (average is 16). In the Traveler's Guide to the Firearms Laws of the 50 States, Scott Kappas writes "Connecticut's gun laws have become more severe over the last twenty years." He scores the state about 27 out of 100 indicating it is much closer to total prohibition than total freedom regarding firearm rights.

Connecticut issues concealed carry licenses, but on a discretionary basis. For many years they allowed those with concealed carry licenses to carry in schools. They didn't have problems with license holders, but in 1998 they changed their law to prohibit firearms in schools. The change was sold as something that would "make the children safe." We can now see that change in law bore the same result as the change in law (August of 2001) prohibiting airline pilots from carrying guns on their planes.

Sandy Hook elementary school, like Columbine High school, Virginia Tech University, Luby's, Fort Hood, the Aurora movie theater, Northern Illinois University, Red Lake High school and other places have something in common. These are all places where multiple people have been killed with guns in what Sarah Brady, Michael Bloomberg and others call "gun free" zones. They claim they prohibit guns "for the safety" of those killed.

Are you happy with the results? I'm not. I'm mad as hell that we have ignored the overwhelming evidence of the failure of "gun control" and "gun free zones" and that 20 innocent children were left helpless in a classroom while one person was able to kill them. Never again should we put our children in such a helpless situation.

I don't for a second think that those who enacted these policies did so because they wanted to enable the mass killing of people. But there is no mistaking the unintended consequences of their policies. We must recognize the failure of any policy that endangers our children and replace it with one that will produce the desired results.

If more gun control laws are not the answer, what is?

First, this is not about guns. It's about safety. It is about doing everything we can to prevent and stop an incident like Sandy Hook from happening again. There is no one simple easy solution. We must look at all aspects of the event and ensure we have layers of defenses so that our plan works, even if multiple layers fail.

Preventive measures. Experts continue to say there is no way of predicting who will go on a killing spree. But we need to look for commonalities in the killers and see if we can learn some warning signs that would allow us to get these people help or otherwise intervene before a person commits such acts of brutality. Intercepting a potential attack before it gets to school property is the most desired situation.

Harden the physical building. We must make our schools safe from external threats. Control the entry and exit points and know everyone who is permitted in the building. We have made great improvements in this area in the last 10 years. It’s time to review what we have learned. Copy the successes and improve on the weaknesses.

Mindset. We need to train teachers and administrators how to react. Not just closing the door and hiding in a closet, but limiting the carnage and stopping the attack. They should be trained to build a barricade and ambush their attacker. We have preached zero tolerance to fighting for so long that students in Norris Hall (Virginia Tech) sat in their seats as a killer came down the row executing them. There is a time to fight, and an active killer situation not only permits it, but demands it.

Arming the teachers. Similar to pilots who carry guns to protect their passengers (something that has worked very well in spite of all the anti-gun predictions of disasters), teachers need the tools to protect their children - not just from fires or abuse, but from a killer in the room. Like pilots, we don't need to arm every teacher, just those who volunteer, pass background checks and receive appropriate training. It has worked in Utah, Alabama, and Texas for years.

Trauma Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) After the shooting stops, there are going to be injuries. Paramedics can't get in and help until law enforcement secures the scene. Without treatment, gunshot and stabbing victims will bleed to death before outside help arrives. Our teachers already know Basic Life Support (BLS, formally CPR). School personal must have the training and tools to treat trauma injuries immediately. Basic skills to apply compression bandages, tourniquets or clotting gauze to victims will save lives.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. It is a place to start. As we progress, we will find problems with existing ideas and refine or replace them. We will discover new solutions and better ideas. School is a place for learning, and we must never stop learning and finding better ways to protect our young.

For decades prior to the Columbine killings in 1999, police were trained to secure the building and wait for SWAT to show up and solve the problem. Police stood by and watched through windows as killers hunted down and murdered fellow students. There was outrage at a policy that allowed additional students to die. With a new understanding, we discarded bad policy and replaced it with a much better one. Reducing the time of response saves lives.

We failed to adequately revise our non-law enforcement procedures for these events. Most of the time, the event is over before police can respond and stop it. The death toll depends far more on the rules and actions of the teachers in the school than on police response. Teachers and administrators are the real "first responders" to an active killer situation. They must have the tools and training to carry out that mission successfully.

Jim Irvine is the Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman, the Buckeye Firearms Foundation President, and recipient of the NRA-ILA's 2011 "Jay M. Littlefield Volunteer of the Year Award" and the CCRKBA's 2012 "Gun Rights Defender of the Year Award."

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