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Biden Talked Gun Control, But Teachers Should Not Wait 

By JOHN F. BANZHAF. Originally published at ValueWalk.

Gun Control

Biden Talked Gun Control, But Teachers Should Not Wait; “Just Do Something” – Many Simple Things Teachers Themselves Can Do

Biden Talks Gun Control

President Joe Biden spoken movingly about the tragedy caused by mass murderers shooting guns in schools. But in urging Americans to “Just Do Something,” he largely confined his suggestions to gun control measures which many believe probably will not be enacted, and others doubt would have a major impact on needless shooting deaths and injuries in school.


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But teachers are in a position to “just do something” themselves without waiting for and relying upon possible action by the government, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who has correctly analyzed several shooting situations, and whose recommendations to reduce the needless preventable carnage are already being adopted.

Here are ten simple steps which have been proven to be effective in reducing risk, and/or facilitating prompt rescue, which can be taken without the need for new legislation or regulations, and at little if any cost.

  1. Keys

One of the reasons for the delay in finally stopping the Uvalde gunman was the need to track down the janitor who had the key to the classroom door which the killer had locked. But it is gross negligence bordering on insanity for a vital key to be in the hands of one person who – at any given time when it might be required – could be out sick, away on an errand, off campus for lunch, etc. Indeed, there are many reasons other than an active shooter why a classroom might need to be unlocked unexpectedly and quickly – e.g., a teacher inside faints, or has a stoke or heart attack, occupants are overcome by carbon monoxide or smoke, a young child is left inside by accident, etc.

Recommendation

The principal and top administrators should have keys to all rooms (not just classrooms) in the school, and all teachers should have keys which can open all classrooms. If teachers are issued keys – e.g., to individual offices, storerooms, etc. – these keys should also be able to unlock all classroom doors.

  1. Halligan

A Halligan is a large multi-headed crowbar-like bar carried by firefighters and law enforcement officers to make forced entry when a door is locked or simply jammed shut. At schools, teachers can use it to force open a door locked by a shooter if absolutely necessary because of delays by law enforcement personnel, and/or because gunshot victims are bleeding to death. It can also be used if a teacher in a locked room suffers a heart attack or stroke, if occupants are overcome by carbon monoxide or smoke, if a door somehow becomes jammed and is not simply locked, etc.

Recommendation

Every school should have at least one Halligan tool stored, together with a large pictorial instruction card, in the principal’s office and/or in other appropriate locations.

  1. Magnetic Door-Open Alarm

More than a dozen children and two teachers died needlessly in Texas because apparently (although this is now contested) a teacher negligently left (some say propped) a rear entry door open, thereby defeating the school’s normal controls on entry. To guard against this foreseeable problem – one which can easily occur at many different schools despite training and warnings – schools can and should employ the same simple magnetic door-open alarms now in use in tens of millions of homes. Two pieces – one mounted at the top of the door, and the other adjacent to it on the door frame – send a signal to one or more cell phones and computers if the door is opened and the magnetic coupling thereby disrupted. No wiring is needed, since the signal is sent using the school’s existing WiFi. If a door remains open when it shouldn’t, an employee can very promptly close it and make sure it is locked. This inexpensive device might have prevented 21 needless deaths in Texas, and installation elsewhere can save even more.

Recommendation

Every school door which isn’t keep open and manned during the day should be equipped with an inexpensive magnetic door-open alarm which will instantly send a signal via the school’s existing WiFi to designated cell phones and computers if the door is opened, and especially if it remains open. Employees who improperly open doors, and especially if they leave them opened, should be disciplined.

  1. Inside-Lockable Doors

In many ways, the best, the least expensive, and also by far the simplest protective step teachers can take to protect their children from being shot is having a classroom door which can be locked from the inside – since it is too risky to expect a teacher to have to step into a hallway to insert a key. That’s why The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission recommended that “all classrooms in K-12 schools should be equipped with locked doors that can be locked from the inside”; a recommendation also endorsed by the California Federation of Teachers, the National Association of State Fire Marshals, and many other organizations. The common type of door lock (technically “latch”) found on guest rooms in most hotels and motels – where the guest simply swings a latch horizontally to engage a ball-tipped prong – is as good as any, meets all the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act [ADA], and will lock both single- and double-door classrooms securely. It is also simple enough to be operated even by young children who might find themselves in a classroom without a teacher during an active shooter alert, or by an older child with a physical disability, in a panic situation, etc. NOTE – No person inside a locked classroom has ever been shot in all of the reported school shootings.

Recommendation

All classrooms should be equipped with doors which can be be quickly and easily locked from the inside, perhaps using the same inexpensive latch-locks used on most hotel and motel guest doors.

  1. Window Signs

When first responders arrive at a school, it is vital that they all know immediately in which rooms the shooter may be found, where there are victims, where others may be hiding, etc. Although they may have given this information in the form of room numbers or designations (e.g., “Art Room”), they may not have floor plans immediately available, and those outside – often at a distance using binoculars and/or telescopic video cameras seeking to look in – may not be able to quickly and reliably identify individual rooms. This potentially life-threatening problem can be solved if the room number or other designation is displayed clearly in at least one window of each room.

Recommendation

A room’s number or designation should be displayed in a window in numbers large enough to be viewed from a distance by first responders.

  1. Stop The Bleed

Bullet wounds caused by an AR-15 rifle, the gun of choice by mass shooters, typically produce huge gaping injuries which can cause a victim to bleed to death in only a few minutes, long before trained medics can arrive. That’s why many experts recommend that schools have ready-made and easy-to-use tourniquets which can be applied by lay persons, even students, immediately to prevent blood loss until medics can arrive and take over. Indeed, they have developed “Stop The Bleed” kits containing simple tourniquets, other necessary supplies, and clear instructions. The kits are designed to be mounted in public places, ideally near every mounted AED, where either or both can be used in an emergency by people with no prior training. The University of Maryland in Baltimore has some 250; each mounted next to an AED.

Recommendation

To prevent death by exsanquination from AR-15 gunshot wounds before medical help can arrive, schools should have a sufficient number of tourniquets on hand and ready to use, preferably in “Stop The Bleed” kits. If necessary to reduce costs, tourniquets can be made beforehand very inexpensively from common household supplies following Internet instructions, and kept on hand.

  1. Info Apps

Many schools have apps, or other means by which students can store data on their cell phones and/or smart watches, which provide information about the school, its schedules and personnel, etc. But it’s just as important that they have ready and immediate access to instructions about what to do if they hear gunshots, or otherwise become aware of an active shooter at the school or nearby, who and how to contact in the event of an emergency, and probably how to provide limited assistance to victims until trained help is able to arrive. This could include reducing life threatening blood loss by using a tourniquet, compression, etc,; preventing a victim from gagging on blood or vomit, not moving an injured limb, etc. All of this – and perhaps even more – information should be incorporated within the school’s existing app, or by similar means.

Recommendation

School apps should have information about what to do if an active shooter is present or suspected, and perhaps how to assist shooting victims.

  1. Emergency Texting

Uvalde taught us the importance of students being able to provide important information during an emergency, even when under fire and/or hiding, and especially when any talking could endanger their lives. Text messaging provides one means since it is entirely silent, and students through experience have learned to finger type very quickly. In many ways it’s also better for those receiving the messages since texts can easily be searched, grouped, and sorted while voice/oral recordings cannot. Since they require far less bandwidth, information in text form can be relayed to others more quickly, even if communications channels are far from ideal, and the information can easily be supplemented, corrected, annotated, etc. by school authorities or others. But to make this all work in an emergency, the address of the recipient of text messages to be sent in an emergency situation must be clear and widely known, and the recipients should be persons trained in handling and responding to text messages under such stressful situations.

Recommendation

Students should know how and why to communicate via text messages during a shooting situation, and the school recipients of text messages must be trained in how to best handle the situation.

  1. Guns

Although controversial, some 20 states have programs which permit a small number of specially trained teachers to carry a handgun. Signs advising ‘WARNING, Some Teachers Are Armed” should provide significant deterrent to a potential school shooter since neither students nor outsiders will know their number or identity, and an armed teacher may be able to stop or contain a shooter if such action is necessary before law enforcement personnel arrive. Like a similar program for commercial airline pilots where non-law-enforcement people are armed, no innocent person has ever been injured. Most would agree that a teacher with a gun is more likely to be able to stop a shooter than one who is unarmed.

Recommendation

Schools without an armed-teacher program should at least study those programs long in effect, and perhaps consider adopting a similar one.

  1. Other Weapons

If at least a few selected teachers can’t be armed, or teachers are worried about injuring students if they carry a gun, there are other powerful weapons which teachers can keep in locked gun safes in their desks or classroom closet which will be much more effective than using chairs, tables, poles and other objects teachers have sometimes been forced to resort to. One is a canister which can shoot a chemical substance powerful enough to stop a grizzly bear some 20 feet away which was developed to be used in school shooter situations. Aim is not critical, and, unlike with a firearm, there is little danger of an innocent person being killed or seriously injured. A paintball pistol, which can be used to fire a paint ball directly into the face of a shooter, has the same advantages, and is likely to at least disorient the shooter so that he can be stopped. There may well be others.

Recommendation

Teachers who cannot – or are reluctant to – carry a gun should consider effective but non-lethal weapons which can be kept safely locked in a classroom desk or closet.

It is said that the Lord helps those who help themselves. The same may be true regarding teachers in classrooms and psychotic gunmen; since nothing so far seem to have slowed – much less stopped – mass shootings at schools.

So teachers must consider what they themselves can and should do to protect their own lives, and the lives of the young children who are depending on them, warns Professor Banzhaf.

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