Safe Schools

In early January a 34 year old English teacher, and mother of three, was talking with two students as they left baseball practice at a public High School in a trendy neighborhood. A few minutes into their conversation the group was approached by two men. Both were in their early thirties, one had prior convictions for aggravated assault, while the other was released from prison a week earlier after serving nine years for kidnapping and rape. There was little the teacher and two students could do to defend themselves from the unexpected assault – a violent attack which left them unconscious in a parking lot until an assistant coach found them later and called 9-1-1.

Two days earlier I met with a school Superintendent to discuss the rationale and logistics to allow licensed teachers to carry their legal firearms to protect themselves and defend their students against an active shooter. It was instructional for me as I learned first-hand how this senior administrator sought to satisfy his constituent’s desire for security. He argued that since parents and residents had not asked to arm teachers, he felt it was his duty to provide security through other means. He pointed out the hundreds of cameras that were recently installed and funded through a bond issue. The Superintendent was excited about having a recording of any event. He was more comfortable telling parents there was nothing he could do than to deal with another “distracting program” or the possibility a teacher might lose control of a weapon inside one of his schools. He did not understand the difference between safety and liability, and although he acknowledged security could only be offered through an immediate response to danger, he chose to support solutions measured in minutes on a timescale that must be mapped to seconds.

This Superintendent preferred optics to action and logic and reason were wasted on him. Moreover when he asked us what data existed to show that armed teachers provided a safer environment he cut us off before we finished explaining that police stations and other offices where guns were frequently available had a much lower incidence of gun violence – his response was “Those people are trained.” That’s a lot of faith in a curriculum he’s never seen, but it also dismisses the possibility that Safe Schools could require the same level of training required for law enforcement Officers.

Gun Free Zones are a misnomer. They imply security where there is none. Most arguments in favor of gun free zones simply ignore that by definition a criminal will not follow the rules. Rules that in most cities prevent teachers from defending themselves, even while many of them are capable of maintaining the skills required to carry a concealed weapon and apply good judgment about situations where they may be needed. Safe schools would mean qualified teachers can carry without diminishing the educational environments administrators, teachers and students strive for. Let me show you how.

The Federal Flight Deck Officer Program is an excellent proxy for arming teachers. This is a cost effective program that places responsibility for safety with potential victims and recognizes that seconds count. Following 9/11 pilots were allowed to carry fire arms in the cockpits of commercial aircraft, as long as they met the training and licensing criteria to be an FFDO. This continues to be a voluntary program and at one point almost half of all commercial pilots flying for major US carriers were enrolled. The FFDO program has overwhelming support from passengers, Government officials, and the public. It serves as an existence proof that pilots can do their jobs and flights depart and arrive on time safely. Guns in the cockpit have not proven to distract pilots’ attention from their core responsibilities. What makes teaching so different? Do we view pilots as old marine corps fighter jocks – they’re men and they can handle a gun, while teachers are thirty year old Moms who drive mini-vans to work and don’t know the difference between a revolver and an AR-15? I suspect stereotypes play a role.

Members in both the FFDO program, and the Sky Marshals, those dedicated armed special agents in the sky, have lost or discharged firearms since 9/11, some inside security, but none of those situations led to disaster, and it’s unlikely that a voluntary program that allows teachers and administrators to carry concealed in school would have a different outcome, but it would put potential shooters on notice – This School is NOT a gun free zone.

Here’s a roadmap for real security:

  • Start with the goal – Allow capable teachers and staff members to carry concealed weapons in schools.
  • First, map your school districts decision-making structure: Principals, Superintendent, Board, City Manager, Police Chief, Security Manager or Security Consultant.
  • Next determine who understands the distinction between real security (responses measured in seconds vs. minutes or longer) and who has a desire to implement actual security measures.
  • Then determine who the decision-makers are, and what pressures (constituent, budgetary, human resources, etc) they are under. You must uncover how they are measured – graduation rates, test scores, etc.
  • Collect data about the number and percent of teachers and staff who have prior military or LE experience. Gather data about the number who have a CHL. Additionally, interview some of those teachers to get their opinions about an FFDO like program for teachers.
  • Meet with Superintendents and Board Members, but plan to “Teach” them how to “buy” from you.  Example: “we’ve met with other members of the board and a number of your teachers and parents and they support our position.” Share real stories from parents and teachers and the data you’ve already collected – these provide a great starting point for your discussion.
  • Continue to gather supporters until you have a security program that addresses the threats facing your kids.

There’s little cost to this program – unlike paid security guards (many unarmed), the teachers volunteer their time for a license and their money for equipment and training. You could even use a school fundraiser to donate ammunition for teachers’ quarterly qualifications, and the local police department should be engaged to conduct quarterly training and certification. All this is available immediately and places “first responders” where they’re needed – at the scene, without delay, and every school could do this without spending incremental funds.

The real story about the teacher attacked in the parking lot ended differently. In early January a teacher shot two attackers in a school parking lot. One of them died at the scene while another was transported to a hospital. How do you feel about this now? Does it matter that this seventy-year old teacher’s heroic actions actually enhanced the sense of security at his school?

He was walking two girls to their cars in the parking lot after Basketball practice when one of two attackers grabbed the chain around his neck. This took place in Detroit, and he was armed since he is a Reserve Police Officer.  Why should he be allowed to protect himself, while every other teacher in that school is prohibited from carrying a handgun? These are important things to think about and even more important to act on.

We’re anxious for your feedback – please share this article with your friends and tell us what you think!

Risk Management

Things Every Gun Owner Should Know

Things every gun owner should know.

  1. You are responsible to know the law; and to be knowledgeable about your gun’s operation.
  2. Treat every gun as if it is loaded at all times (only point it at things you want to kill).
  3. Your firearm must be stored in locked container or have a trigger lock engaged when it is not in your hands.
  4. Practice with your weapon UNLOADED to become familiar and comfortable with it.
  5. On semi-automatic handguns keep the slide locked rearward to prevent bad habits that ignore cycling action.
  6. Learn a two-handed grip that will allow you to walk with your hand gun and a flashlight.
  7. Do not conduct a search through your home or property with your gun in the lead.
  8. Use your free hand to open doors and keep your weapon close enough to prevent moving doors from knocking it away from you.
  9. Deadly force is justified only when undertaken to prevent imminent and otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm to the innocent.
  10. You are responsible for everything your bullet hits so you must know where it will land.
  11. 9MM handguns with a standard full metal jacket projectile can penetrate both sides of at least six interior walls before they stop. Brick walls will usually contain bullets from a handgun, but after the first shot all bets are off.
  12. Keep a firm grip on your weapon at all times and never put your finger on the trigger unless you are planning to fire at a target in your sights.
  13. If you use your gun to defend yourself or someone else – you are a threat to the Police. You must remember that they will treat you as they would any armed subject until they determine you are unarmed and not a threat.
  14. Describe what you’re wearing to the 9-1-1 operator and secure your gun before the Police arrive.
  15. Do not continue to carry it around after the threat is removed.
  16. After you call 9-1-1 You or a friend or family member should contact a lawyer to represent you.
  17. Do not answer any questions until your lawyer is present, and make it clear to the police that you want to tell them what happened, but not until you are represented.
  18. Study the Box-O-Truth Website for a realistic view of your gun’s capabilities.
Risk Management

Knock the Rust Off IFR Approaches

IMC approach

For the pilots out there – this is a note to myself that I’ll use to “knock the rust off” the next time I have a layoff between flying IFR approaches in my local area. I just earned my IFR rating, but my flying occured in three periods, with six to nine month delays between each. Instrument Flight Rules flying requires good techniques and creates a high workload for single pilot operations. I found myself “relearning” each time – it was especially frustrating since I had mastered flying a stable final approach twice before. This list constitutes heuristics and guidelines for me to become proficient again quickly.  WARNING: I am not a flight instructor or a commercial pilot – just a private pilot who met the FAA standards to earn an IFR rating – so this may be wrong or not applicable to your situation and airplane.

Prepare for IFR flight:

  1. During preflight, setup NAVCOM radios for your approach.
  2. Call clearance delivery for a clearance. Follow the CRAFT format: Cleared to; Right after departure; Altitude; Frequency; Transponder
  3. Set altitude for departure airport, and adjust DG, AI for flight. Check-in with the local VOR/DME to verify VOR equipment operational.
  4. Set tower frequency as soon as you reach the departure end of runway before performing the pre-departure checklist.
  5. Once airborne, tune-in arrival weather, and reset altimeter as necessary.
  6. Before vectors to approach course, verify navigation aid by listening to the identifiers broadcast from the aid. Press the Nav 1 or Nav 2 button to listen, and turn up the volume on the Navigation radio to hear it.
  7. In straight, level, cruise-flight reset the DG to match the compass before ATC provides vectors.
  8. ATC will give you a vector that will put you on the final course – you must watch the needle when you make the final turn to capture the localizer.
  9. Verify minimum altitude prior to the Outer-Marker and brief the Final Approach Fix, altitudes and missed approach procedures.
  10. At the Outer-Marker power back and pitch down for a 500′ – 700′ FPM descent. The power setting is critical – too high, and the aircraft will not descend easily and need a lot of left rudder to remain on course. Use an initial power setting at 2150-2200 RPM’s for best effect. It’s much easier to flatten-out to recapture the glideslope, than to be too high above it… so power setting at the Outer-Marker at the correct “initial” altitude is the key to have a fighting chance at a low-workload approach.
  11. Instrument scan during the approach is the next battle – once a 500′ descent rate is established and the aircraft is aligned with the localizer, use left rudder to keep the Directional Gyro (DG) from turning, and use the Attitude Indicator (AI) and wing-leveler or Turn Coordinator (TC) to keep the wings level. Engine power, and nose-down attitude make the glideslope a non-event. Now – no matter how rough the air – keep the wings level with constant monitoring. Once the aircraft gets slightly off course, 3 degree corrections are the ONLY acceptable response. Use the localizer to verify position relative to the runway, and ensure wings are level. As you drift away from the localizer, make slight adjustments to recapture (let the wings turn towards your course, verify new course with the DG, and return to wings level) and verify or confirm progress using the localizer – alternatively, use the localizer indicated on the GPS to verify position relative to the centerline, but only use slight wing dips away from level to return to course.
  12. Your scan must be lightening-fast in the last 90 seconds before the touchdown point. Focus on keeping your wings level… and glance at the localizer to confirm you’re in the right spot, while looks at the Vertical Speed Indicator (VSI) allow corrections for altitude. In rough air you need to monitor the VSI more frequently to compensate for updrafts and downdraft effects. Downdrafts that require higher power settings are especially difficult since they increase workload. You need vigiliance and rudder inputs to keep the aircraft from turning. Once the desired altitude is achieved, re-establish the lower power setting and pitch down to maintain 500 FPM.
  13. Keys to a stable approach – persistence – use a rapid scan, and don’t give up: Reach the Outer-Marker aligned with the localizer and know the approach heading you must maintain on the DG, cross at the right altitude, immediately establish pitch and power for a descent rate, apply slight left rudder and keep the wings level.
  14. Go-arounds at the bottom require: 1. Full power; 2. Pitch up to 10 degrees nose up (use AI), and verify climb with a look at the VSI (This is the hardest step, since you will feel like you’re tumbling backwards – trust the AI, VSI, and Airspeed); 3. Apply right rudder as necessary for coordinated flight.

Have fun and let me know if you found this helpful.