“ To hear the ensuing debate about arming teachers and principals and security guards, I just want to go on the record with the board in saying I think that is one of the most irresponsible positions to take in this gun discussion.”
This what a Superintendent of schools stated after the Sandy Hook school shootings several years ago.
“I hate this conversation, I hate that it’s a necessary evil. What happened in Newtown…is just horrible. And having young children at home, and sitting and watching the TV, and seeing those photos with the names being called…with your children in the room, looking at the TV, and looking at you, and you’re fighting back the tears. You’re so thankful they’re sitting in that living room with you, and you’re not one of those parents. I can’t imagine what those parents feel like.”
Sup. Neu said the proposal to arm teachers and/or administrators was irresponsible. But who was actually being irresponsible? Under Neu’s leadership, an emotional reaction became a dangerous policy decision. His refusal to discuss all the options, however, was actually a decision. The Superintendent admitted to being paralyzed; he was unwilling to face up to the necessary responsibility of leading our community:
” But the reality is, if a gunman wants to do what these gunmen want to do…there’s little that anyone can do to stop them. Putting guns in the hands of teachers and principals, who got in this business of educating kids, and not being armed forces…It’s just not a solution, in my mind, and will not be one that comes forward as a recommendation while I’m your superintendent.”
Neu’s statement that “if a gunman wants to do what these gunmen want to do…there’s little that anyone can do to stop them” was not a true statement and invited carnage right here in Federal Way. This was an abdication of his responsibility to protect our schools. Rather than use his authority under the law, he claimed that we are helpless!
We are called then for concerned citizens to join with us for the purpose of exploring all the concerns related to armed volunteers which could include school personnel interested in a program to protect our schools with deadly force. There have been close to sixty volunteers working with the FWPD and some of them are almost full time.
About sixteen of them attended a class we provided at Federal Way City Hall and many of them were retired military with CPLs and emergency preparedness training.
The Gun-Free School Zones Act (GFSZA, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 922(q) ) is a federal United States law that prohibits any individual from knowingly possessing a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a “school zone” as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(25). The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 states in part:
(A) It shall be unlawful for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.
( Subparagraph (A) does not apply to the possession of a firearm—
(iv) by an individual for use in a program approved by a school in the school zone;
(v) by an individual in accordance with a contract entered into between a school in the school zone and the individual or an employer of the individual;
(vi) by a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity; or…
Washington State has a similar statute which states the following in part:
Possessing dangerous weapons on school facilities — Penalty — Exceptions.
(1) It is unlawful for a person to carry onto, or to possess on, public or private elementary or secondary school premises, school-provided transportation, or areas of facilities while being used exclusively by public or private schools:
(a) Any firearm;….
(3) Subsection (1) of this section does not apply to:
(b) Any person engaged in military, law enforcement, or school district security activities. However, a person who is not a commissioned law enforcement officer and who provides school security services under the direction of a school administrator may not possess a device listed in subsection (1)(f) of this section unless he or she has successfully completed training in the use of such devices that is equivalent to the training received by commissioned law enforcement officers;
See Washington State Gun Free School statute.
Subsection (1)(f) includes:
(f)(i) Any portable device manufactured to function as a weapon and which is commonly known as a stun gun, including a projectile stun gun which projects wired probes that are attached to the device that emit an electrical charge designed to administer to a person or an animal an electric shock, charge, or impulse; or
(ii) Any device, object, or instrument which is used or intended to be used as a weapon with the intent to injure a person by an electric shock, charge, or impulse.
Thus, carrying electronic devices requires special training for non-LEOs. The legislature has already provided that non-law enforcement personnel armed with firearms need only be involved in school district security activities; i.e., authorized to carry a weapon for security purposes.
Even though the statute does not require specialized firearms training, certain criteria should be determined by the district in conjunction with law enforcement experts and possibly others. Such unpaid personnel could be called “Special Security Officers” since they would submit to very intense training and not merely be amateurs that walk in off the street.
Ed Barney asked the Chief at one of the meetings what Chief Wilson’s opinion was about arming teachers. The Chief stated that he thinks arming teachers will distract them from educating students. Thus, Federal Way is beginning to have the discussion. Kudos to Ed and the Chief who has now moved on to better and bigger things. As has Rob Neu who left Federal Way during a mess that he allegedly helped to create and went to Oklahoma City to be their school Superintendent!
But we need to drill down and get past politically correct talk into the realities of a very fluid and disturbing situation which is beyond simple political tactics. There is an overall attack against our lives and our way of life that requires an overarching operational strategy in which firepower is embedded randomly to combat random violence. The embedded firepower needs to be prepared for deployment in such a way that an active shooter has no idea how many adults may be ready to confront him or where and how the volunteers may be placed.
Police officers are present as school resource officers at our high schools and there are also some security personnel at the middle schools. The fact that there are uniformed officers means that uniformed individuals could be the first personnel targeted by active shooters. Chief Wilson delivered a report that included many of the important things done to make sure the schools are safe.
The Chief emphasized that many of the circumstances regarding school shootings are very random and that events can begin on the other side of a campus, where the school resource officers may find it difficult to protect lives. Even if there are no teachers interested in obtaining the specialized training that could qualify personnel to carry in the schools, there are others that will do whatever it takes to become qualified. If there are ten volunteers going around to all the schools, there will certainly be the kind of deterrent effect that we have seen from having armed pilots and air marshals in the friendly skies.
There may also be maintenance staff or administrators that are willing to take some time off and pay for their own training- like commercial airline pilots can decide to do.
Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back.
IF YOU SAY, “SEE, WE DID NOT KNOW THIS,” DOES HE NOT CONSIDER IT WHO WEIGHS THE HEARTS? AND DOES HE NOT KNOW IT WHO KEEPS YOUR SOUL? AND WILL HE NOT RENDER TO MAN ACCORDING TO HIS WORK?
I have gone on record at school board meetings, offering to meet with the District and share ideas about protecting our schools. I have also contacted many of the school leaders via email regarding security issues.
My first Firearms Lawyer column appearing in the Mirror in July, 2008, called for armed volunteers in our schools.
Armed volunteers, including some motivated school staff trained and supervised under the oversight of law enforcement professionals, are far less expensive to place in our schools than unarmed security guards. And they can be more effective in deterring violence because there is no way for an active shooter to anticipate who will emerge to deploy unexpected deadly force.
Volunteers will also have roots in the community and can be an example and an encouragement to our youth. These could be retired military folks, those with law enforcement experience or just grandparents that can meet the qualifications including proficiency testing on the range that will be at least as rigorous as the testing under which LEOs qualify.
In other words, do not assume that a “volunteer” is just a person that walks in off the street with a CPL. The criteria will be determined by the School Board working with top law enforcement officials and security experts. The main expense may be the consultants and the insurance cost which will eventually go down if a number of school districts decide to work with armed volunteers.
Federal Way deserves better proposals from its leaders than just having unarmed, uniformed law school resource officers at our high schools and security officers armed with pepper spray at middle schools with some security roaming between the remaining elementary schools. Let’s find ways to make sure that if anything happens in any of our schools in Washington, Idaho or anywhere in the USA our students and school personnel do not have to wait for the police while witnessing carnage in a school. We owe it to everyone in our schools to make sure that they can do more than just hide from violence.
Public policy should not be determined by emotionalism even where the aftermath is shocking and gruesome. The cost of denial after what occurred in Connecticut, Columbine and other places is unthinkable. Schools will not be safe until we guard them with more than talk. Our schools need armed force that can materialize randomly- just like the violence that continues to plague our society. Maybe some Bible reading in the schools might also help? Our Idaho legislature just enacted a law permitting Bibles in schools- imagine that.
A PRUDENT PERSON FORESEES DANGER AND TAKES PRECAUTIONS. THE SIMPLETON GOES BLINDLY ON AND SUFFERS THE CONSEQUENCES. Prov. 22:3