20 January 2013

Sandy Hook, part two, 20 seconds

I figure the adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School had twenty seconds to respond to the armed intruder on December 14th, if they were going to save any of the children in their care.  That's all the time it would have taken Mr. Adam Lanza to step through the shattered front door and walk to the nearest classroom and start firing and killing first-graders. 

It took him a little longer than that because Principal Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach got in his way...but not for long.  He just shot them dead and continued on.  

The third adult to have a chance at stopping the murderer, before he gets to the children,  is Lauren Rousseau, 30, a substitute teacher in the first classroom.  She, like Dawn and Mary, has nothing but her bare hands to defend herself and her students.  It has now probably been less than a minute since the first shots are fired and the gunman begins shooting children.

I bring this up because this kind of mass shooting is going to happen again.  It will happen nomatter how many guns are restricted or confiscated.  It will happen nomatter how many extra health professionals are hired and nomatter how many angry looneys are locked up or drugged into a vegetative stupor.   It will probably happen much the same way, with very little time to respond before innocent children are killed.   And even if the police get there in record time, too many will die.

I suggest to you, that if we want to stop the next mass shooting, each adult in the school needs to carry a loaded weapon and have it on her person at all times.  There isn't going to be time to go to a locker in the central office, or even open a gun safe in each classroom.   The teacher may not be in her classroom when the moment comes.  She may be in the parking lot, or playground or gymnasium or cafeteria or hall. 

I suggest to you that this whole "lockdown" procedure is more likely to cost lives than save them.   Teachers are told, in the case of a gunman inside the school, to get students from the hall into the nearest classroom, lock the classroom door (if it can be locked) turn off the lights and air conditioning, close and lock the windows, pull the window blinds, and then have the students sit quietly on the floor with their backs against the same wall as the door, far from the door as possible.  The teacher is told to grab the roll book and not to cover the window in the door.  This is so the intruder will look in the door window and see a dark empty classroom and pass it by.  

Ask any marksman, or anyone with common sense, and he will tell you it is more difficult to hit a moving target than a stationary one.  It is harder to hit a target moving across your field of view than one traveling directly away or directly toward you.  It is also harder to hit a target that is far away, rather than close to you.  And if you are trying to hit more than one target, it hinders you if they are scattered all over rather than in a tight group.

Now take another look at the lockdown teacher and students.  They are in a motionless tight group twenty feet from the door.  They are sitting ducks should the intruder decide to investigate the quiet room.

The first classroom at Sandy Hook didn't have much time to take evasive action, but the second and third classrooms did and Ms. Soto had time to hide some of her students.  She heard the shots and screams coming from the first classroom and hid them in closets and cupboards, which is better than sitting them against a wall in the open.  What if instead of hunkering down, the students had been drilled on climbing out a window and running for it?  Running for the fire station?  Running for the nearby woods and hiding there?

I get the distinct impression that all these lockdown procedures are big on control.  School administrators don't want kids running willy-nilly all over the place.  Suppose one got lost, or wandered away to a road and got run over by a car?  The school would be in big trouble.  No, the adults are there to maintain order.  That order might work well in the case of a fire evacuation, but single file doesn't work well if you have to be an elusive target and dodge bullets.  We've all seen the results of a few school shootings, and the one place that doesn't offer a safe haven is the classroom.

I told my son in high school to never stop thinking for himself, even during a lockdown; especially during a lockdown.  I told him--with Colombine and Virginia Tech in mind--if he were ever in a situation where a shooter was coming his way, to not hide under his desk, but throw it through a window and get the hell out of the trap, even if he had to jump from a second story window and crawl away with a broken leg.

So to review:  Schools need an immediate response and armed teachers might just be the best bet.  And schools definitely should re-think the whole uber lockstep lockdown thing,


  1. I remember hearing from you a long time ago that children in Israeli schools are not kidnapped and threatened because the teachers are armed. I, as a parent, would feel my child is safer in a school where there are at least a few staff members that are carrying concealed weapons and have training specific to deal with a shooter scenario. I read an article written by a police officer who said that our schools need to be prepared for shootings the way that they are prepared for fires. It is not overboard to have school equipped with the best tools and training if we are really serious about preventing loss of young lives from shootings.

    1. these shootings happen very quickly. The response to stop them has to be measured in seconds, not minutes. Armed guards or armed teachers or librarians...Janitors, somebody has to be on site. HN.