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The Anatomy of School Shootings

Updated: Jan 23, 2019

Look at the most horrific mass murders in the last decade.  The murders at Sandy Hook Elementary are particularly shocking because of the very young victims.

There are clear lessons we can learn. The first lesson is that I won’t mention the murderer’s names. I will not give them the notoriety and celebrity, they want.

That morning at Sandy Hook, The attacker had already murdered his Mother. He then stole some of the murdered woman’s guns for his heinous attack.

Some of the school staff at Sandy Hook Elementary were concerned about campus security. School principal, Dawn Hochsprung, had gotten installed a new door entry system that required visitors to be visibly identified and buzzed into the school. As part of the security program, the school locked its doors each day at 9:30 a.m.

The school door was locked when the murderer arrived on campus. Inside the school, Principal Hochsprung heard loud pops. The murderer shattered the large windows in the school office and walked into the school. The Principal, the school psychologist Mary Sherlach, and the vice Principal Natalie Hammond went to the school entrance to investigate the noise. They charged the murderer with their bare hands. Principal Hochsprung and psychologist Sherlach were shot dead. Only Hammond escaped from the hallway. She was alive but wounded.

The killer had shot his way into the office and defeated the measures taken to “harden the school”.

Because Sandy Hooks Elementary is a “Gun Free” zone, these brave staff members were unarmed. 26 people were murdered that day. Many of them were young children. We never want that to happen again.

Sometimes these attacks end in a very different way.

In Pearl Mississippi in 1997, a student slit his mother’s throat and stole the family deer rifle. The murderer took the rifle to nearby Pearl High School. He then murdered two students and wounded seven others. Assistant Principal Joel Myrick was on campus that day. Myrick heard the shots and ran to his pickup truck. His truck was parked over 1,000 feet from the campus. The campus was a gun free zone, and Myrick parked that far away in order to obey the law.  Myrick retrieved and loaded his 45 caliber pistol and ran back to campus. Mr. Myrick pointed his pistol at the murderer who was trying to escape. Assistant Principal Myrick successfully held the murderer at gunpoint until police arrived.

Unarmed security is often ineffective. February 14, 2018 in Parkland Florida, a former student, opened fire with a rifle killing 17 and wounding an additional 14. The murderer then dropped the rifle and mixed with students fleeing from campus. Football Coach Aaron Feis was among the murdered victims. Coach Feis used his body as a shield to protect his students. Two other teachers, Scott Beigel, and Christopher Hixon, were also murdered. Hixon came from a family with an extensive military background. Hixon was a U.S. Navy veteran. Hixon was killed while patrolling the school’s campus. He was an unarmed security specialist for Broward County schools. Broward County Sheriff Department personnel formed a distant perimeter around the school instead of entering the school and confronting the murderer.

It takes time for police to respond to a school attack. Columbine High School was attacked on April 20, 1999,   Two students attacked this school in Littleton, Colorado. They opened fire and killed 12 students and one teacher, William “David” Sanders.  The two murderers exchanged gunfire with police on the way into the school and drove the lightly armed School Resource Officer from campus. SWAT teams reentered the school 47 minutes after the shootings started. Law enforcement declares the school secure four hours after the murderers committed suicide.

Armed security can make a difference in the outcome of these attacks. On March 20, 2017 a 17-year-old male student shot another student, at Great Mills High School in Maryland.  School Resource Officer Blaine Gaskill responded to the scene in less than a minute. Gaskill and the murderer fired at each other simultaneously. The Killer was later pronounced dead from a self-inflicted gunshot. Gaskill’s shot had hit the killer in the hand. Gaskill was unharmed.  An innocent student later died in a hospital from a gunshot wound Inflicted by the murderer.

May 17, 2018

Officer, Mark Dallas, was on duty at Dixon High School near the school gymnasium. Students were gathered for a graduation rehearsal. Officer Dallas, heard gunshots at 8:06 a.m. He confronted the gunman, chased the murderer out of the school and pursued him down a nearby street. The gunman, a student at the school shot at the officer but missed. Officer Dallas shot the attacker who was taken to a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

Police Chief Steve Howell said this. “I could not be more proud of the police officer and the way he responded in this situation. Because of his heroic actions, countless lives were saved. We are forever indebted to him for his service and his bravery.”

We learn in school that “to every rule there is an exception”.  But I think there is a pattern here.. Dr. John R Lott, a noted economist, author, and commentator, has written that with more good people with concealed carry permits in a jurisdiction, crime goes down. See more at We see from these examples that having armed responders on the scene can make a significant difference.

Based on my study and experience, I am convinced we need more school staff legally carrying concealed firearms in our schools. It only takes a few days to give them training and skills on par with law enforcement officers.

Some might object that school staff who are armed with only a handgun would be outgunned by someone with a rifle. I’ve given you contrary examples, but here is an extreme example that happened off campus. On May 3, 2015 in Garland, Texas, two terrorists opened fire with semi- automatic rifles. Officer Greg Stevens, returned fire with his handgun at extended range and mortally wounding the terrorists.

The training course for armed school staff is called FASTER, for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response. FASTER Utah trains school staff in defensive firearms and trauma first aid. This gives them the skills to bridge the critical gap between the time a horrific event starts and the time when law enforcement and paramedics come on scene.

FASTER Utah graduates pass the same POST shooting requirement as Utah Law Enforcement Officers. They also receive Trauma First Aid training to help save the lives of the wounded. The other part of our mission at FASTER Utah is to educate the public that there are people in our schools who carry concealed and have comparable skills to those of professionals. We all want them to stop violence quickly and render aid until the professionals arrive.

You can support FASTER Utah by donating here.

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