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The murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in 2018, demanded concrete action as did the atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Our nation now mourns another massacre.
Nineteen precious children and two caring adults were murdered by a lone shooter at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Our country cries for answers, not political rhetoric. We must do all we can to prevent this horror from happening again. To do so requires pertinent action and the application of time-tested principles adapted from our nation’s military.
Hundreds of millions of guns are owned by law-abiding citizens who venerate our Bill of Rights. Millions more, however, are held illicitly by criminals aided by a southern border that is porous, allowing arms trafficking. Therefore, a ban on rifles that resemble military weapons in appearance will not restrict the ability of those with murderous intent from obtaining lethal arms. More effective measures are required.
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While focused programs to foreclose the opportunity of individuals with a history of violence or who are mentally ill and have demonstrated dangerous behaviors should be a priority, general gun control is an ineffective means to curtail attacks at schools, which may also be carried out using a vehicle or a bomb. Our Navy protects its vessels through the adoption of a layered defense.
We must protect the precious vessels that are our schools and our children this way. The first layer is the formation of a defensive zone to obtain advantage; the second layer is intelligence gathering; the third, interception; the fourth, point defense. Many of these individual layers are already in place in our nation’s schools. What is needed is the systematic application of all layers of defense in each school, for each layer reinforces and is dependent upon the others.
To form a defensive zone, the threat must be specified. Students with mental health issues or histories of violence or abuse must be assessed, and, if appropriate, reported to cognizant local and national authorities; enhanced data management and notification must be prioritized.
Adult models of virtuous behavior are all too often absent: Popular culture has eroded once-sacrosanct moral precepts, to instill nihilism and despair in certain children. Social media further exacerbates isolation by limiting human interaction. To impart values that will shape students, enriched standards of behavior must be demonstrated.
We must employ our veterans, including those with disabilities, to serve as school mentors, character coaches, and afterschool instructors. Those who have sacrificed, through their selfless service to our nation, can instill leadership, compassion, courage, love of freedom, and the importance of health and fitness.
Veterans, with regular presence in our schools, can spot troubling behaviors, to alert school officials to potential threats. In this, they would be responsive to the 2002 Secret Service and Department of Education report, Threat Assessment in Schools: A Guide to Managing Threatening Situations and to Creating Safe School Climates, for had the report’s measures been followed, targeted gun or other violence in schools throughout America would have been reduced, perhaps markedly.
This report considered how the Secret Service operates by anticipating and evaluating potential threats before they could act. Veterans could become essential bridges between school officials who, under the report’s guidelines, are charged to conduct threat assessment inquiries, and law enforcement, who are charged to conduct threat assessment investigations.
These two types of assessments, using different institutional skills and vantages, must form a continuum. Trained veterans would fortify this endeavor, while lending a perspective concerning the anticipation of violence that is obtained through military training. Such a national program would be affordable and could employ 200,000 veterans, whose salaries could be covered by a mix of federal, state, and local funds.
Interception concerns the maintenance of a defense perimeter to bar a threat from its objective. Effective physical barriers might have stopped the national tragedy that has just occurred.
In accord with other concerns such as fire safety, if entry or exit from a school can be controlled through a series of physical measures, the security of the institution is enhanced. As part of the COVID rescue plan, over $100 billion was approved for the nation’s K-12 education system. Some estimates note that 90 percent of this money has yet to be spent.
Most of these funds should be immediately repurposed to improve the physical boundaries of our nation’s schools. Such hardening must be the product of a fusion of ideas from architects, students, teachers, school administrators, law enforcement, firemen, and veterans, for the physical plant of each school is unique.
Point defense is the final boundary against targeted school violence. It is, by definition, a last-ditch effort. In this, we need not reinvent the wheel: Schools may be protected by the same means used to secure airports, courthouses, or government offices.
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In these venues, select personnel are armed. Law enforcement officers in schools must carry guns. State and local school systems should consider whether contract security personnel, veterans, or teachers should also be armed.
The introduction of armed veterans, supplemented by a hidden-carry program for teachers or the addition of more armed guards or officers attached to schools, should be considered as a key component of any time-urgent point defense, for experience shows that school assaults may end before any outside police force can arrive on school premises, much less make entry to apply force. In every case, it is imperative that all those armed in schools be subject to routine psychological screens designed by professionals.
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Too many so-called gun-control measures represent either an uninformed or a political diversion that cannot staunch targeted violence aimed at our schools. No system of defense is perfect, but the erecting of multiple layers of defense provides the surest means to enhance the safety of America’s students. It is time we act as one nation.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO