Safer Schools Proposal

Note: This is a proposal I made in 2014 when I was a member of the Willard Board of Education.

Safer Schools Proposal

It is the responsibility of the Board of Education to set policy for the district. The current policy is to not allow any weapons on school grounds except for the School Resource Officer or what is allowed by state law. Even though this policy is not advertised by the district, it is easily discoverable on the district’s website. I feel it is time that the Board of Education take an objective look at the policy.

Every five to ten years there is a significant shooting rampage at a school. From 1999 through 2010, which includes Columbine and Sandy Hook, the average number of K-12 student shooting deaths was 4.9 per year. By comparison, the number one cause of death for 5 to 18 year olds was unintentional injury at 6,962 per year. The largest subgroup was motor vehicle/traffic at 4,676 deaths per year. Lightning strike deaths for 5 to 18 year olds average 6.8 per year. (Source: CDC WISQARS database for 1999-2010)

School shootings are extremely rare and unlikely to occur in the Willard district. Even if it is unlikely, shouldn’t we as a Board of Education take reasonable steps to maximize protection for the students?

Children should be as safe at school as they are at home. The current school policy of hiding from an armed intruder is not an optimum solution. An analysis of how rampage shooters are stopped shows that there are fewer lives lost when civilians confront the intruder instead of waiting until law enforcement officers arrive. The most favorable outcome occurs when the civilian is armed. (Source: Analyzing Shooting Rampage Statistics)

This comprehensive analysis drew the following conclusion:

With 15 incidents stopped by police with a total of 217 dead that’s an average of about 14.29. With 17 incidents stopped by civilians and 45 dead that’s an average of 2.33.

The first point I want to draw your attention to is that roughly half of shooting rampages end in suicide anyway. What that means is that police are not ever in a position to stop most of them. Only the civilians present at the time of the shooting have any opportunity to stop those shooters. That’s probably more important than the statistic itself. In a shooting rampage, counting on the police to intervene at all is a coin flip at best.

Second, within the civilian category 11 of the 17 shootings were stopped by unarmed civilians. What’s amazing about that is that whether armed or not, when a civilian plays hero it seems to save a lot of lives. The courthouse shooting in Tyler, Texas was the only incident where the heroic civilian was killed. In that incident the hero was armed with a handgun and the villain was armed with a rifle and body armor. If you compare the average of people killed in shootings stopped by armed civilians and unarmed civilians you get 1.8 and 2.6 but that’s not nearly as significant as the difference between a proactive civilian, and a cowering civilian who waits for police.

So, given that far less people die in rampage shootings stopped by a proactive civilian, only civilians have any opportunity to stop rampage shootings in roughly half of incidents, and armed civilians do better on average than unarmed civilians, wouldn’t you want those heroic individuals who risk their lives to save others to have every tool available at their disposal?

Willard parents leave the lives of their children in our hands. Children should be as safe at school as they are at home. We need to give our administrators and teachers the tools to keep our students safe.

Current Missouri Law

Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 571 Weapons Offenses Section 571.107 

1. A concealed carry permit issued pursuant to sections 571.101 to 571.121, a valid concealed carry endorsement issued prior to August 28, 2013, or a concealed carry endorsement or permit issued by another state or political subdivision of another state shall authorize the person in whose name the permit or endorsement is issued to carry concealed firearms on or about his or her person or vehicle throughout the state. No concealed carry permit issued pursuant to sections 571.101 to 571.121, valid concealed carry endorsement issued prior to August 28, 2013, or a concealed carry endorsement or permit issued by another state or political subdivision of another state shall authorize any person to carry concealed firearms into:

(10) Any higher education institution or elementary or secondary school facility without the consent of the governing body of the higher education institution or a school official or the district school board.

This means that individuals with concealed carry permits are allowed to carry firearms in schools with the consent of the district school board.

Proposal

  • Every school building that houses students will have from one to six personal gun safes securely attached to a wall or a large piece of furniture. The location of each gun safe should be hidden from students and school visitors.
  • In each building, from zero to six volunteer certified and/or administrative staff (authorized staff) will have access to at least one of the personal gun safes. A firearm and ammunition will be secured in each gun safe for the authorized staff that has access to that particular gun safe(s).
  • The authorized staff must be a certified School Protection Officer as defined by the Missouri Department of Public Safety and maintain the certification.
  • The Superintendent will have access to all of the gun safes and will be the only district employee with a list of all authorized staff who have access to gun safes. The personal gun safes will have both key and electronic locks. Electronic locks so the user does not have to search for a key in an emergency, and a key lock so the safe can be accessed by the Superintendent.
  • The expense of the gun safes will be paid by the district. Any firearms, ammunition, and training programs will be paid by the authorized staff to ensure anonymity.
  • The district would permit any board member, administrator or certified staff with a CCW permit that is valid in Missouri to carry a concealed firearm to any Board of Education meeting.

The purpose of the proposal is ambiguity. There will be gun safes in every building that houses students. The number and identity of the authorized staff, if any, who have access to a firearm in each building will be known only to the Superintendent. Any potential intruder does not know if they will face armed resistance which by itself is a significant deterrent. 

The alternatives are to make no changes in policy or place a School Resource Officer in every building. That would be a sizable increase in expense to the district.

Dr. John Lilly, June 26, 2014

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