Active Shooter!

What are you teaching your children about responding when they hear gunshots or a series of loud bangs or screams from another classroom or the corridor?

You perhaps remember being young. Many years ago in youth church, our pastor offered a dollar to the first one of us who would stand up, walk down the aisle in front of all the other young people and take it … a dollar being a great deal of money then. For the longest time, not one of us moved, despite the minister’s urging. At last, someone walked forward and took the money.

I think the minister was trying to teach us that it was not necessary to “follow the crowd.” That sometimes we had to stand out, make our own way, choose our own path. It was a valuable lesson, lost perhaps until we cornered the child brave enough to stand out and discovered that it was indeed real. Unfortunately, that person wasn’t me. I froze on the pew, fearing to trust, afraid to become the butt of a joke, afraid to be noticed in any way by my young peers.

This reaction is common among all people, not just the young, though the call of the herd is very powerful as a person grows up. So as you send your children off to school or out into life, how do you teach them to think? How do you teach that it is okay to be a social individual and yet the first person to stand up and take action?

They hear shouting in the corridor, perhaps a series of pops or dull thuds, they will look around. They will wait, pause, hesitate. What is everyone else doing? What if, instead, they jumped up to close and lock the door … and became the laughing stock of the class or the office? How would they ever live with the smirks, the jabs, the ridicule? What if it’s just the janitor or a birthday party down the hall…?

This response is what murderers depend on, though perhaps not consciously because school killers are not devious planners, but simply youngsters (usually) with a grudge or hurt they believe they can assuage by harming others: “If I hurt enough people, somebody will pay attention to me, help me feel better.”

By now, 10 states have laws that allow concealed carry on college campuses; other states have laws that arm teachers. Arkansas and Georgia, for instance, are joining Texas, Colorado and others legalizing campus carry — with an exception for sporting venues.

You teach your kids to throw a baseball and be a good citizen. How do you teach them to think for themselves; to not be afraid of the opinions of the crowd? Teaching begins with setting a good example, but at some point with growing youngsters you should discuss active shooter situations and proper response. Many training scenarios emphasize ALICE: alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.

Will you buy your youngster a firearm, get him or her into a training class? How do you teach him or her to respond appropriately, in a timely manner, rather than wait and cower with the victims? Your good example is probably the first, best step, but I was studying the new Arkansas law allowing firearms on campus and came across this information from Arkansas State University.

It being a pedantic institution like Florida State or Yale or Stanford, the college bulletin begins with an unnecessary definition: “An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and other populated area. In most cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly.”

The University moves to “What you should do.” Lock and barricade doors, silence cell phones, do not pull a fire alarm, etc. It also includes this choice directive: “Consider the safety of the masses vs. the safety of a few.” (That’s a hard one to swallow if your child lies bleeding in the corridor, waiting for help.)

How do we teach our kids to be survivors, not victims; active and even courageous in the face of terror? Do we arm them for college, knowing that firearms are not allowed in dormitories — and that a shooter can even enter a grade school? What’s the best way to get our kids to think and respond without hesitation, without being one of the sheep? What do you tell your kids?