- - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Active shooter incidents — also designated as public mass shootings — seize our attention, yet predictably generate political rifts between those reacting with “we must get rid of guns” and those who lament that no one on the scene was able to use a gun for protection. When District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier (during a recent interview on “60 Minutes”) encouraged average citizens to shoot back, she landed squarely in the camp of National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who famously said that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

“If you’re in a position to try and take the gunman down,” Chief Lanier said, “to take the gunman out. It’s the best option for saving lives before police can get there.”

It wasn’t just the head of the largest group representing gun owners in the United States who Chief Lanier agrees with. This concept has been adopted by law enforcement agencies across the country. She then described the heart of the problem.

“The fact of the matter is that most active shooters kill most of the victims in 10 minutes or less,” she continued, “and the best police department in the country’s going to be about a five-to-seven minute response.”

Or, as millions of Americans who carry firearms for protection put it, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

Law enforcement has adopted this concept, which may have first been popularized by Ron Borsch, manager and trainer at the SEALE Regional Training Academy in Bedford, Ohio, who created a new way of thinking of active shooter scenarios. He calls it the “Stopwatch of Death,” and this is what Chief Lanier is talking about. In an active shooter scenario, every minute of delay results in more casualties. Mr. Borsch created a way to compare one incident to another with a simple formula: Number of murder attempts divided by the number of minutes equals X. The X is the “Stopwatch of Death factor.”

The disturbing part of this, and it’s something law enforcement is studying, is that even though the number of public mass shootings is low — fewer than a half dozen a year — the factor clearly is increasing. That is, in these public mass shootings, where the attacker is not there to murder one or two known individuals or to take hostages but is there to rack up a body count, the evidence clearly indicates that media attention drives shooters to try to become more famous than previous mass murders by virtue of killing more. They literally drive up the “score,” knowing their names will live on by virtue of the 24-hour news cycle.

For law enforcement, and for individuals, this means things happen quickly, and even a good police response time of five to 10 minutes results in dozens of people being killed. Police departments, well aware of the Stopwatch of Death, have changed their policies. No longer do they wait for backup outside the building as they did in the Columbine shooting. Now, even an individual officer who is first on the scene goes in. The record shows that when even one person with a gun confronts the shooter, that twisted soul usually gives up or kills himself. Or the armed person shoots the murderer. Any of those options instantly stop the murders.

The question, voiced obliquely by Chief Lanier, is why would we care what clothes are worn by the person who stops the killer? Why do so many politicians insist that we can be saved only by someone wearing an approved set of clothing — a uniform? Time after time we see that normal citizens have stopped mass shootings in schools, churches and malls by virtue of having a gun, knowing how to use it, and mostly by being there.

Time is the killer in an attack by a madman. The person on the scene responds immediately. When we have to call to have someone bring a gun — and that’s what a 911 call actually is — innocent people die in the minutes-which-seem-like-hours spent waiting for help.

The callous irony of Chief Lanier’s statement is her department’s determined efforts to prevent law-abiding people from being able to stop these mass murders. Through the difficult-to-the-point-of-being-virtually-impossible process of getting a permit to carry a firearm for protection, the District’s top cop has doggedly worked every angle to keep citizens defenseless.

The simple fact is that the police are not actually the first responders. They respond after the attack is reported. The people on the scene are the first responders. It is immoral and unconscionable to force the public to be victims of mass murder so that those in power can maintain a monopoly on force.

Tom Gresham hosts the nationally-syndicated radio talk show “Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk” (guntalkmedia.com).

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