Where are the immediate responders?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

By Joe Waldron

In April 1999 a terrible and tragic incident occurred at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Two students went on a rampage, murdering one teacher and twelve other students before committing suicide themselves. There were, and obviously still are, important lessons to be learned from the Columbine incident.

Police doctrine, up until Columbine, was to isolate the site of an incident until specially-trained response teams could arrive, assess the situation, and act. In other words, establish a perimeter and await the cavalry. In the case of Columbine, the resulting many-hour delay in entering the school likely accounted for the loss of life of one or more individuals due to the lack of immediate medical attention.

With Columbine and subsequently 9/11, the term “first responder” entered the common lexicon: police officers, firefighters, EMTs who react quickly and are on the scene in minutes.

As well trained and as committed as our first responders are, in most cases they are not present when an incident is initiated. As the saying goes, “When help is needed in seconds, the police are only minutes away.” Our police officers and other first responders do a terrific job – WHEN they arrive.

Two other terms evolved as a result of these, and similar, incidents: “active shooter” and “immediate responder.” The definition of “active shooter” is pretty clear: a shooting incident is ongoing, with loss of life occurring even as the incident is being reported to 9-1-1 dispatchers.

The term “immediate responder” gets little attention. Who is an “immediate responder?” An “immediate responder” is the person at the scene of an incident AS IT OCCURS, and who is in the best position to provide some form of immediate response. It may be a simple cellular telephone call to the nearest 9-1-1 operator. It may be application of life-saving first aid as learned in Scouting, in Red Cross first aid classes, or in other training environments.

And that immediate responder may be the lawfully armed citizen, one of more than four million gun owners across the country licensed to carry a concealed firearm, who alone is prepared to bring an “active shooter” to a halt. Immediately!

Vice Principal Joel Myrick at Pearl High School in Mississippi. Two students at Appalachian Law School in Virginia. Licensed citizen Jeanne Assam at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. All stopped active shooters.

Award winning research by Florida State University criminology professor Gary Kleck reveals armed private citizens use firearms in self defense or defense of others more than two million time a year. Thankfully in most of these incidents, no shots are fired. The fact that an armed citizen is present and able to counter a criminal is sufficient to stop the incident in many cases.

Creation of “victim disarmament zones,” by statute or policy, accomplishes NOTHING to ensure public safety. Does anyone honestly believe an individual bent on murder is going to stop because he or she sees a “Gun Free Zone” sign? All victim disarmament zones do is embolden criminals and discourage law abiding citizens from exercising their right of self defense as guaranteed by both the U.S. and most state constitutions.

Some people believe that banning guns from a college campus is a no-brainer. Less guns equals less crime, right? WRONG! History teaches us that the opposite is true – that crime is lowest where firearms are possessed by honest, law abiding citizens. When was the last time you read of a spree shooting at a police station, at a gun range or at a gun show? The presence of a lawfully armed citizen may be all that stands between the next active shooter and his intended victims.

Lawful concealed carry save lives. So-called “gun free zones” do not.

Joe Waldron is a retired Marine officer and a board member of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.