20 December 2012

Proper Focus is Key

Let me introduce myself... My name is Talya Drissman Woolf, and I have been invited to be a contributing writer to this blog.

I'm a practicing attorney, newly married, and a writer and runner. I enjoy exercising, meeting new people, learning new things (including languages), and have my own company where I teach people how to shoot handguns (mainly women-only classes though I do have plenty of male students). I am a huge fan of the USA and Israel, and host a blog of my own, which discusses military, politics, Israel and related issues.

I'm honored to be writing for Shira's blog. I hope you enjoy my articles.

-Talya W.

It’s been a rough week for Americans.

Unfortunately, when a tragedy occurs (especially one that involves children), we want to do something to prevent it from happening again. Americans are fixers. This time is no different, but we have wrongly identified the problem that needs to be solved. It doesn’t help that the media sensationalizes the murderer, and it doesn’t help that we haven’t been focusing on the victims, or on the mental health aspect of these instances.

All states have laws in place that make it unlawful for certain individuals to acquire and possess guns. The laws in Connecticut, for example, state that a person must be twenty-one years of age to possess a handgun; that it is unlawful to possess a handgun by a person who has been convicted of a felony; convicted as a delinquent of a serious juvenile offense which includes illegal possession of a controlled substance, negligent homicide, third degree assault, first degree reckless endangerment, second degree unlawful restraint, rioting, or second degree stalking; discharged from custody within the preceding 20 years after acquittal by reason of mental disease or defect; confined by court order for mental illness within the preceding 12 months; subject to a restraining or protective order involving physical force; or an illegal alien. It is unlawful to possess any other firearm by a person who has been convicted of a felony.

Each state has comparable laws in place, but they do not affect how criminals and bad guys obtain their weapons, and never will. Perhaps those laws have to be harsher, but punishing law-abiding citizens and preventing them from obtaining guns so that they may defend themselves and loved ones is simply not the solution.

Instead of arguing about our country’s problems, debating what they might be, and using the deaths of small innocent children to push through restrictive laws, we should be focusing on finding a solution, both for schools and other public areas.

Teachers have always had a challenging job. Not only do they have to educate our children, but they are also responsible for keeping them safe. Principals and superintendants have the most pressure and the most children to watch over. One small town in Texas, Harrold, has found a solution.

Since it’s so small, the nearest sheriff’s office is thirty minutes away, much too long if something evil happens. They don’t have the money for a security guard either.

Instead, the school board voted to let teachers bring guns to school. Their teachers aren’t just anyone. They have master’s degrees, are older, have extensive training, and their guns are hidden. Normally, Texas law bans guns in school unless the school has given written authorization. In 2007, Harrold’s school board voted unanimously to allow employees to carry weapons. After obtaining their state concealed-weapons permit, each employee who wants to carry a weapon must be approved by the school board based on his or her personality and reaction to a crisis. This is a strict standard, and it continues. Employees must also undergo training in crisis intervention and hostage situations and must use bullets that minimize the risk of ricochet (similar to the ones used by air marshals on planes). 

Harrold, Texas is not alone. Superintendant David Thweatt stated that there are other Texas schools that allow teachers to carry weapons, but would not reveal their locations due to negative publicity.

The Texas solution is a smart one. It allows the teachers and administrators to protect their students and provides them with training so that they may do so. Most parents would do anything to protect their children, and want to be able to trust other adults to do the same. They want responsible and trained individuals to be watchdogs for their little loved ones.

It is important for administrators and principals to be able to protect their wards. Principals and vice-principals should be encouraged to go a step further and either carry weapons (and undergo training) or persuade interested teachers to do the same. Superintendants should be looking into similar solutions for their districts.

Rep. Mark McCullough of Oklahoma is working on a bill that would allow teachers and administrators to receive firearm training through the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training.

Richard Fairburn[1] suggested another solution, which can complement the above policy. While there simply aren’t sufficient policemen or military personnel to provide each school system with an armed guard, there is a no-cost solution available: Minutemen, defined as “an organization of citizens with limited military training who are available for emergency service, usually for local defense.” According to Fairburn, Minutemen must be exempted from every geographic restriction placed on those who currently carry concealed weapons since virtually every mass killing in recent history has occurred in a “gun-free zone.”

Fairburn lists three different categories of Minutemen: (1) former law enforcement officers; (2) retired military personnel; and (3) honest, armed citizens. This opens it up to hundreds of thousands of volunteers who would selflessly give their time (and lives) to serve and protect our next generation – and would do so at a moment’s notice.

These proposals will not deter opponents of the Second Amendment or eliminate fear. People still have doubts that more armed people, even trained ones, will equal more injuries and deaths. However, doubts can be eliminated, or at least seriously reduced, with extensive training and responsible guards. 

It’s sad that it has come to this, and nothing is guaranteed, but it’s better to be prepared and trained than it is to be ignorant and fearful. Let’s protect our little ones and our public with more than just hopes and wishes. Let’s teach them that we love them and care for their safety. Let’s find and utilize reliable solutions first, so that we can then have breathing room to address the real problems and not the guns. 

[1] Richard Fairburn has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience in both Illinois and Wyoming, working patrol, investigations and administrative assignments. Richard has also served as a Criminal Intelligence Analyst and as the Section Chief of a major academy’s Firearms Training Unit and Critical Incident training program. He has a B.S. in Law Enforcement Administration from Western Illinois University and was the Valedictorian of his recruit class at the Illinois State Police Academy. He has published more than 100 feature articles and two books: Police Rifles and Building a Better Gunfighter.

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