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Students Demand Action Self-Owns in Attacking Active Shooter Drills in Schools

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A recent social media post by the smug hoplophobes at Michael Bloomberg’s Students Demand Action gun control group didn’t go the way they’d hoped. It went so badly, in fact, that they ended up closing comments to avoid the merciless heckling they were getting. The damaging and self-own, however, had already been done.

One the surface, it’s a typical anti-gun argument. The only thing that can save us from violence is more common-sense gun safety gun control laws. Doing anything else is dumb and even detrimental, especially for kids. Preparing for emergencies? We wouldn’t need to prepare for no stinkin’ emergencies if we could just transform the United States into Eurotopia with one simple trick…outlawing civilian firearm ownership.

There’s just one problem. The article they linked to doesn’t say that active shooter drills are bad. In fact most of it talks about best practices running the drills.

The only anti-drill argument presented in the article comes from — wait for it — Everytown for Gun Safety’s (SDA’s non-parenting parent group), while the other actual experts cited talk about how beneficial the drills can be when done right. In fact, by the end of the article, it’s made clear that a well-designed and thought-out drill isn’t only good for safety, but helps kids become responsible, situationally aware adults.

The article conveys a number of good suggestions for designing a good active shooter drill:

  • Drills should be tailored to students’ developmental levels and physical abilities and consider their prior traumatic experiences, special needs and temperaments.
  • All drills must ensure the physical and psychological safety of students, who also must understand the information provided and be proficient in following the steps of a drill.
  • School-employed mental health professionals should be involved in every stage of preparation.
  • Student participation should never be mandatory.
  • Parental consent should always be obtained.
  • Establish a long-term, follow-up plan to support sustainability that includes assessing ongoing or changing preparedness training needs.

“If we have to do it,” one researcher was quoted saying, “let’s make sure we’re doing it right. Because, at the end of the day, what drills are teaching people is situational awareness and decision-making in stressful situations, and that’s a life skill anybody can benefit from.”

I’d recommend reading the whole thing, but long story short, the article doesn’t support Students Demand Action’s assertion at all. It’s clear that active shooter drills are a proven way to reduce casualties and don’t harm children when they’re planned and conducted responsibly.

The Necessity Of Drills

Another important thing to keep in mind is that, no matter what gun control groups preach, mass shootings at schools are still extremely rare. Even if they’re more common here than in other countries, very few students will ever experience one and the chances of it happening to any particular student is still near zero.

At the same time, my education and training in emergency management and homeland security supports keeping them. Why? Because we’re dealing with a high risk, low frequency event with very little discretionary time for decision-making.

As risk management expert Gordon Graham points out in the video above, these are the worst situations anyone can face because the outcome matters and we’re the least mentally ready to get them right. But with intelligent training, we can put something in our “mental hard drive” in case a high risk, low frequency event comes up.

To drive the point home, I’ll share a quote from another well-respected expert, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. He’s known for saving hundreds and perhaps thousands of lives crash-landing a passenger jet in the Hudson River after a catastrophic bird strike event (here’s a fairly accurate depiction of what happened).

“One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience: education and training. And on January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”

I don’t know about you, but if Sully says we need to train for near-impossible hazards, I’d make sure my kids’ schools are doing it.

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