02Pub Pen gunsAs communities grapple with another school shooting this month, citizens are rallying to demand change. Will more laws make a difference? This week, publisher Bill Bowman yields this space to retired Special Forces soldier Jim Jones. Jones shares his thoughts on ways communities can protect citizens and citizens can protect themselves.

Eighteen minutes of terror was all the time it took for the murderer to kill 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Feb. 14. The people, politicians and media are crying for an end to school shootings.

This article is not just about guns or mental health. This is about you and your community. While there is no 100 percent solution, there are things we can all do to turn the tide.

We should ask local politicians to make our schools safer. We can do this by making doors more secure, building schools with access controls built in, planning escape routes and conducting training. Schools should have a strong police presence. Take a dog through the schools and tell the students it is a drug- and gunsniffing dog. It can be any dog, but the idea is that you are doing something.

We should learn from the fire prevention efforts that go into our schools. Schools are built to satisfy fire code standards and are inspected, and schools regularly conduct fire drills. The last mass school deaths (10 or more) from fire was in 1958 in Cheektowaga, New York, where 15 students died.

Demand respect for teachers in the classroom. Ideally, teachers should never have to defend against an attack, but they have a traditional role of keeping good order and discipline in schools. Because we have taken corporal punishment out of school, the children often rule the teachers.

In the classroom, teachers should be trained to protect their rooms. The doors should have strong locks, and the teachers should have the ability to quickly and effortlessly barricade the doors. The rooms should have windows that allow students to escape. Teachers should be taught how to use items in their classroom as weapons – just in case they have no other choice but to fight. A fire extinguisher can be brutal to the face and eyes.

Schools need to have experts train staff and administrators so they know what to do during an active shooter event. Most school systems want teachers to lock down the school. A few years back, a friend who was responsible for writing a school’s emergency procedures asked me about this. We discussed escape routes, but the school board’s lawyers objected because of liability concerns and fear of lawsuits. This is insane. Would we tell teachers to keep children in a burning school? What if the Columbine attackers were able to detonate their firebombs, propane tanks and the other 99 explosive devices that were found after they committed suicide? Yes, people could be shot while running out of a building, but it is hard to hit a moving target, and distance is your friend when it comes to beating the odds.

The police must stay current on tactics. Police need to have subject matter experts at each school who can advise other officers when they arrive at the scene.

High school students should not be forced to go to school. Some of the most successful people in the country did not finish high school. If school is not for them, they should be given the right to pursue happiness in some other way. However, if a student is permanently expelled from school for an act of violence, a restraining order should come along with it. It should also be entered into the gun background database and used as a reason to refuse the sale of a weapon. After a reasonable time has passed, the record should be cleared again unless there is another reason to bar that person from purchasing a gun.

No one wants to talk about the effects of violent video games on our children. As video games have become more realistic, it has become hard to tell the difference between the game and reality. Video games effectively train players to kill as many people as possible.

Parents and the gaming industry will argue that this is not so. But look at our military. Pilots spend countless hours in flying simulators before taking off. Twenty-year-old NASCAR driver William Byron (#24) credits playing racing video games for his success as a NASCAR driver because the games are realistic. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are the big three in video technology and have major lobbying groups. Violent videos are a huge market share for these companies. In 2017, the top five videos were all violent. You shouldn’t need the government to tell your kid that violent video games are unhealthy. Just walk into their rooms and take them away.

We should improve our justice system to provide a fair and speedy trial. Florida has the death penalty. There is no reason why it should take more than a few months to bring a person to trial if they are caught committing a crime on video, if they confess or if DNA evidence shows they are guilty. If found guilty and the death penalty is the judgment, it should only take a day or so to have that person put to death and let people move on with their lives.

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