Rapid Response: 4 key takeaways from the Fla. high school shooting
If we want to make a dent in mass shootings like the one in Florida, we need to fix our mental health system
A 19-year-old man shot and killed 17 students and adults at a high school in Parkland, Florida, and wounded many more...
...We will learn more about this horrific crime as the investigation continues, but even at this early stage, we can identify useful pieces of information from the reporting to highlight several longstanding truths about these rapid mass murder incidents:
1. We have a mental health crisis in America.
There will be a predictable focus on the tool used by the killer by some people with a political agenda, but the real story here is about a young man who had mental and emotional problems, and didn’t get the right help for them...
...We can’t say with any certainty right now, but it’s likely that in the coming days we will discover a pattern of behavior indicating this man needed professional help that he didn’t get for some reason.
Cops will be the first to tell you that the mental health system in America is broken, because they’re the ones who inherited the primary burden of dealing with the mentally ill after we deinstitutionalized mental health care in the 1970s. With nowhere else to go, many of these ill people wound up in the criminal justice system, which is ill-equipped to handle their needs. Most of the rest wound up on the streets, with no help at all...
The issue here is very thorny. Two points I would bring out. One, a definition of "mental illness" would have to be in the legislation. Gun control advocates (see liberals) would oppose that, as they would rather it be left to the bureaucracy to define, and change, without notice. See the TSA "No fly" list. Two, a "No buy" would assumedly be built from mental health records. That would conflict with another law called HIPAA. Physiological workers are under similar restrictions of other privileged communications, such as spousal talk, and attorney-client discussions. I don't think many people saying, more accurately screaming, "We need a no-buy list!!!!" have thought the details out.
2. Our schools deserve better security.
While there was an armed school resource deputy on campus at the time of the shooting, he never encountered the shooter, according to the Broward County Sheriff's Office. It’s reported that a football coach – who also served as an unarmed security officer – bravely responded to the attack and shielded students from harm.
In this day and age, it’s unacceptable for a school – any school, be it public or private, regardless of student age – to operate without an armed security presence on site. There is no combination of passive security measures, defensive architecture, or unarmed security that can adequately protect our most precious resource – our children – from an armed attacker intent on destruction. The only thing that can properly defeat an armed attacker is a defense manned by trained and armed personnel.
Please note, this does not have to be a police officer. Programs such as the Transportation Security Administration’s Federal Flight Deck Officer program or the Buckeye Firearms Association’s FASTER program have ably demonstrated how selected volunteers can be trained to provide a necessary layer of defense, and act as on-scene first responders, while more capable resources (the police) are summoned. Furthermore, such volunteers can act as force multipliers even if a School Resource Officer (SRO) is assigned to the school, and can fill in the gaps for those occasions when the SRO is not on campus...
Good point. We have people who can assist law enforcement in securing these, quite frankly, easy targets. A sign proclaiming "No weapons allowed..." only means there are no good guys allowed to be armed.
3. Enemy tactics are improving.
The killer reportedly wore a gas mask and had smoke grenades, setting off a smoke alarm to flush students from their classrooms, where they could be more easily targeted. In an environment where a lockdown is the predictable response to an active killer threat, today’s killer found an easy way to short circuit the defense by using the school’s own fire response protocol against them.
This denotes a rather sophisticated level of planning and tactical awareness that shouldn’t surprise anyone in this audience. We know these killers study the successes and failures of other killers, and make continuous improvements to their game. They adapt their tactics and their weapons to ever-changing conditions, managing to retain the initiative. We should expect this cycle to continue.
That is the most significant item to take from this. These active shooters are looking studying the techniques of previous shooters, and improving their techniques. In the Army, we used Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield:
...the systematic, continuous process of analyzing the threat and environment in a specific geographic area. It is designed to support staff estimates and military decision making. Applying the IPB process helps the commander selectively apply and maximize his combat power at critical points in time and space on the battlefield by--
◾Determining the threat's likely COA.
◾Describing the environment your unit is operating within and the effects of the environment on your unit.
Perhaps we need to adapt this to the Intelligence Preparation of the Target Space, developing a "systematic, continuous process of analyzing the threat and environment in a specific geographic area" and use it to target the threat. That is a work in progress, and the subject of a later blog post.
4. We cannot relax our efforts.
As a result, we cannot afford to rest. We too must seek continuous improvement in our tactics, training and equipment, and must never allow our preparations to grow stale. We must stay abreast of the latest enemy tactics, and organize flexible, responsive defenses that can quickly adapt to the situation.
Among other things, attention should be paid to:
Developing more comprehensive security protocols for our schools than simply relying on “lockdown” tactics;
Ensuring our schools have a trained, armed security presence;
Providing vehicle-pedestrian exclusion in public areas and venues;
Eliminating fictional “gun-free zones” that only disarm the law-abiding, but leave criminals free to terrorize and injure innocents;
Teaching hemorrhage control basics to the public;
Integrating law enforcement and fire-EMS assets;
Honing the tactics for the joint deployment of these police-fire-EMS resources.
Integrating EOD into our tactical teams, and ensuring those teams are nimble enough to respond to the complex, coordinated attacks that we know are coming.
Providing meaningful safety education and training to employees, instead of pretending that they are suitably trained because we have a “Run, Hide, Fight” poster on the wall in the break room.
The mass murder in Florida was horrific, but it was not unforeseeable. We don’t know the details of when or where, but we know another tragic scene like this is on the horizon.
It’s incumbent on us, as the guardians of public safety, to take advantage of the time we have and ensure that we are using it to prepare for the next event like this. Hopefully, the citizens in your area will never be the target of a mass killer, but we can’t count on that.
Work hard. Stay alert. Be safe.
About the author
Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood is an NRA Law Enforcement Division-certified Firearms Instructor and the author of "Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis."
Good overall look at a very evolving threat.