The Florida state legislature failed our students miserably.
They faced a crisis that has been in the making since even before Columbine: a disturbed person, a former student, who was out to make the record books, to make a point or simply to be violent pulled a fire alarm and killed seventeen innocent people, wounding many more.
He legally purchased an assault rifle and the shop who sold it to him, sold it legally. That assault rifle made his murderous march more lethal and more devastating.
He pulled a fire alarm, most likely because it would cause more people to cross his path.
He was armed with a rifle that he carried in a soft black case. Everything he did was purposed to make the catastrophe he planned more catastrophic.
We have by now all seen the devastation that can be inflicted by an assault rifle, injuries including the destruction of bone and the shredding of tissue. Although a person with a hand gun leaves injuries and death in their wake, the human death toll is significantly less—and survivors of bullet wounds are significantly less injured.
As this new reality was setting in last week, the fire alarm at my daughter’s school went off. Because of the shooting risks illustrated at Parkland, children were encouraged to stay indoors until they saw fire or legitimate signs of fire—totally stymieing the purpose of fire alarms. With strobe lights screaming and electric amped bells blaring, the students huddled in the corner; the teacher must be wondering, do I risk children being exposed to real fire or gun fire.
Yet, the Florida legislature and, ultimately, Governor Scott, decided, despite the devastation at Parkland and the clear message of those survivors, that a ban on assault rifles was unnecessary; would not be helpful; and, let’s face it, would irritate the National Rifle Association (NRA).
What was their solution? Arm teachers, coaches, guidance counselors; possibly secretaries, cafeteria workers and other support staff.
The solution was for Florida legislators is more guns at school. The fact is that a semi-automatic rifle made the tragedy catastrophic, but the suggested answer from the NRA seems to be making our peaceful institutions into militarized zones.
But an armed guidance counselor is no match for a kid with a concealed rifle in the midst of a fire alarm.
The average law enforcement training for new recruits focuses approximately 60 hours on firearms use. After that, they receive approximately 12 to 16 hours of training yearly. The facts are that most gun fights in which law enforcement are involved happen within 3 to 15 feet between them and a perpetrator. A study published in the International Journal of Police Science & Management (2015), sets forth this about the real accuracy of trained law enforcement officers:
“Additional research supports this lack of accuracy, indicating that when police officers use deadly force, more often they miss the target than actually hit the target. Although hit rates across different police agencies vary, officer hit rates often do not exceed 50% during officer-involved shootings. In a national survey completed by the Dallas Police Department (1992), hit rates were recorded as low as 25% in some locations. A study examining officer-involved shootings found that as the distance between suspects and officers increased beyond 3 ft, non-injurious shooting (to the suspect) increased from 9% to over 45% (in the 4-20 ft range) (White, 2006). Theoretically, this may be due to the emotional response of the officer to the high stress level that results when they are assaulted by dangerous weapons or suspects shooting in proximity to and at the officers.”
One can only conclude that the Florida legislature has this information and believes that armed teachers, in the heat of a gun fight can perform as well or better than trained law enforcement officers? They must believe that a teacher, armed with a handgun, trained at some point to fire a weapon, is a match for a semi-automatic assault rifle. If the teacher out performs trained law enforcement, will they be able to hit their target at a better rate than 25%? If 75% of their shots will miss, how will the person with the assault rifle do in terms of hits?
Do we want teachers, coaches and other staff trying to calm and organize children or will the teacher stick them in a closet somewhere as they go hunting down a shooter? Will teachers be able to withstand the emotional toll that goes with the responsibility of taking another life; even if that other person is armed? Can they pull the trigger or are they just another target?
Even trained police officers’ ability to respond and successfully withstand lethal force is subject to sufficient training and that is their full-time job:
“What these statistics appear to imply is that officer firearms training is not extensive enough and occurs too sparsely for officers to gain, and maintain, the expert level of accuracy with their service weapons that is expected of them. With the capabilities of novice shooters unknown, attempting to determine whether officers are prepared enough for shooting situations can only be based upon assumptions and previous general statistics.”
Because they were there, witnesses to the carnage the students demanded reasonable gun control. Instead of listening to those students who were at Parkland and in the face of obvious statistics that have been known to law enforcement, the legislators decided that they know better. They decided that we don’t need gun control and decided to control the conversation. In fact, they decided we need more guns in the hands of inexperienced teachers.
How can the Florida legislature provide peace of mind to the students with a “father knows best” perfunctory answer to the problem?
What message is the legislature and the governor sending to all of us when they fear the ire of the National Rifle Association more than they fear voters?