- - Tuesday, June 7, 2022

I’ve been a teacher for 45 years, starting with middle and high school, and the last 29 years as a college history professor. Across those years, with each tragic shooting, the litany is the same. If only we had real gun control, put armed guards in every school, lock all doors and place metal detectors at the one secure entrance.

Social media will be flooded with memorials, demands for action, and then the usual vitriolic accusing of any who oppose, especially when it comes to more gun control. And a month from now it will be back to business as usual, but the real nightmare has yet to come.

Six years ago I published a book called “Day of Wrath,” which presented the scenario of several ISIS-inspired teams deciding to cripple America in a single blow. The action? Seize several schools in rural and suburban America and kill children without remorse.

I based my novel on a real event, the “Beslan Scenario” that took place in Russia in 2004. Nearly 200 children were ruthlessly murdered by Chechen extremists. Ten years later, in 2014, ISIS was ramping up its horrific wave of terror and barely a day passed without them posting video of barbaric executions including beheadings and mass shootings. And the thought lodged with me: What if they infiltrated several teams into our country and went on a rampage against our own children?

ISIS has faded in recent years, somewhat, but the threat is real and I fear could easily be done, by killing hundreds of children in a matter of minutes, an hour at most, and our response as always in the face of such a threat would be impotent.

This is an all-too-real threat we must consider now, as this wave of school shootings continue without respite. To date, fortunately, if you can call it fortunately, the vast majority of shootings have followed a near-identical scenario. A young man, usually in his mid to late teens, marginalized, often bullied — falling through the cracks in our factory-like schools where such youngsters wind up ignored, addicted to the Hollywood-generated mega-violence of movies and sadistic first-person-shooter games — obtains a gun. He goes on a rampage and a few, or maybe 20 or more children and teachers die.

But the real nightmare scenario is still to come, and one day it will come. The scenario? Just three terrorists crippling this nation emotionally and for years to come in a few short hours.

Consider the possibility that a heavily armed team of but three terrorists, take an elementary school in a small town like my own community here in the quiet mountains of western North Carolina.

The first act, kill the resource officer and those in the front office. One of them then holds the perimeter for the inevitable response of some local police while the other two goes systemically classroom to classroom.

The first response team of several officers are either killed by the single sentry or held back. The class rooms are the targets of the other two as children cower behind a single locked door (if they have even been warned) hiding motionless beneath their desks, and maybe a brave teacher armed with nothing other than their courage at least try to hold the locked door.

According to reports it took up to an hour for SWAT teams in body armor to finally engage at that school in Texas. In a true terrorist scenario, by then it will all be over, the vast majority of students and teachers in that school, dead or severely wounded. The barbarians have won and a nation left traumatized even far worst then 9/11, as Russia terrorized by Beslan in 2004.

Is there an answer? More so-called resource officers? More locks on doors, more signs that it is a “gun-free zone.” Or an armed guard standing sentry at every door, at every school with automatic weapon at the ready as our precious children pass through metal detectors.

One answer is I think all too obvious, but to date, few have had the courage, and also the common sense, to offer it.

Train and arm teachers. Not all teachers, never anyone who says they don’t want to, (and live in a bubble of hope rather than reality). In every school, from elementary to college there are former military personnel working as teachers, coaches and administrators. Many would volunteer for some rigorous training if it offered the chance of protecting our students. Train them, and arm them to carry concealed, even if it is just a light caliber pistol slipped into a holster under a jacket.

They would be the “unknown factor” in every single school. They would be the men and women who in those first precious seconds would react rather than hide. They could buy time for responders to rush in, rather than wait a half-hour to an hour outside while mayhem runs rampant within.

They would be the ones who would willingly put their lives on the line, perhaps even being wounded or dying but would be the surprise factor in a school that would fight back when seconds counted. They might not stop but they would at least slow down an aggressor and buy time for a swift response (and I mean swift and not delayed an hour).

In so doing they just might prevent a Beslan massacre from happening here.

• William R. Forstchen is a professor of history at Montreat College. He is the author of over 50 books including “Day of Wrath” and the New York Times bestselling “One Second After.”

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