- - Tuesday, February 27, 2018

At a time when students and those on the left of the political spectrum are crying for more gun control in the mistaken belief that it will reduce mass shootings, less gun control might cut down on the number of innocents murdered.

Perhaps the most horrifying mass shooting in this century was the murder of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., shortly before Christmas in 2012. It was especially terrifying because of the age of the victims — 20 of them were six- and seven-year-olds. The other six were female staff members of the school.

Like the recent shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., both shooters used AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles. And let us not forget that the shooting in November at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was stopped by a neighbor armed with an AR-15.

Two things happened after the Sandy Hook. One was to be expected — more calls for gun control laws at the federal and state levels. Taking advantage of the tragedy to push his anti-gun agenda, President Obama urged Congress to reinstate the so-called “assault weapons” ban, require background checks on all firearms purchasers, and ban all magazines holding more than 10 rounds. His urgings fell on ears that were aware gun rights are a bipartisan issue supported by a majority of Americans. Congress passed no laws.

However, states like Connecticut, New York, Maryland, and Colorado passed new magazine restrictions, bans on military-style semi-automatic weapons, and additional restrictions on gun sales. But it is doubtful that any of the new laws would have stopped the Sandy Hook killer.

The other thing that happened was the realization in more open-minded states that as Wayne La Pierre of the National Rifle Association put it: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

The massacre at Sandy Hook was a catalyst. Some school boards and school administrators started tossing around the idea of arming their teachers and other school staff. They realized that it is better to have armed staff in the schools rather than wait for the police response.

The Sandy Hook school shooting was yet another example of the ineffectiveness of law enforcement to stop these murders. This is not an indictment of law enforcement responders; it is just that they are not on the scene and mostly by the time they arrive, the shooting is all over. However, the FBI has admitted dropping the ball after receiving two warnings about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter. The adage pushed by federal law enforcement: “If you see something, say something,” is useless if not followed up.

In Texas, the first school district to arm its staff members was Harrold, up near the Oklahoma border. It is 17 miles from the sheriff’s office. After Sandy Hook, other school districts started arming those teachers who wanted to be armed. One of these is Argyle School District just north of Fort Worth. Visitors to any of its three campuses are met with signs saying the teachers are armed and will use necessary force to protect their students.

In Ohio the Buckeye Firearms Foundation got together with the Tactical Defense Institute to put on a three-day course teaching school staff how to shoot and how to protect students. TDI provides the instruction while BFF covers the cost. John Benner, owner and chief instructor of TDI says the program, labeled FASTER — Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response — has taught 1,300 school staff from 200 school districts in Ohio and is now receiving financial support from the state.

Utah has possibly the best approach. It has no restrictions on school staff, parents or visitors with licenses from carrying concealed handguns on public school property.

What enables these mass killers is the so-called gun-free zone. Why is it that people who have qualified to get concealed handgun licenses can walk down the street wearing handguns but if they turn into a courthouse, a bar, a sporting event, or a school, suddenly they are committing a crime and could go to prison? For that matter, why should anybody who is qualified to buy a gun be deprived of the best means of self defense when they enter certain areas.

The problem with gun-free zones is that they aren’t free of guns. They are the places of choice for killers and terrorists to rack up their totals of killed and wounded in places like Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, the Charleston AME Church, Sandy Hook and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They are killing zones.

Eliminating gun-free zones would go a long way to reducing the times these killers have to operate. So let us consider less gun control, not more.

Chris Bird was an officer in the British Army and served in the Royal Military Police. He is the author most recently of “Surviving a Mass Killer Rampage: When Seconds Count, Police Are Still Minutes Away.”

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