Active Shooter Protocols Normalized Across The United States

It’s back-to-school season for kids across America.

As the new school year welcomes prospective students, Sandy Hook Promise released a PSA video on Sept. 18. The video depicts cheerful schoolchildren parading ordinary school essentials for the academic year that may now come in handy when fending off an active shooter.

The non-profit organization was founded by parents of the Sandy Hook Elementary victims who lost their lives in 2012 during a school shooting massacre.

The video’s gut-wrenching message is meant to remind parents and students of the now-normalized tragic fact: the possibility of a shooting happening in a school setting. 

Illustration by Chloe Geschwind

Illustration by Chloe Geschwind

The United States has overlooked taking a stricter stance on gun violence for far too long. It has gotten to the point where bulletproof backpacks are added right next to pencils and paper on the back-to-school shopping list.

For parents to have to think about what active shooter insurance best provides liability protection along with coverage on medical expenses and property damage is absolutely absurd.

The public has almost become desensitized to the idea of someone massacring schoolchildren.

According to Everytown, a pro-gun regulation group, there have been 142 shootings in American schools since 2013.

Santa Monica College (SMC) made its way on the list after the shooting that occurred on and off campus on June 7, 2013 that left six people dead and four others injured. One of the six people who lost their lives during the shooting included an SMC student. 

Since then, most classes at the college provides their own list of nationally suggested response procedures and can be found on syllabuses distributed on the first day of class.

The active shooter protocols are casually listed next to steps instructed to take in case of an earthquake or a fire.

“One of the things we like to promote is run, hide, fight,” stated SMC District’s Chief of Police, Johnnie Adams. He further explained, “Let’s say you hear gunfire in the distance or you see people screaming and running or whatever, you want to run. If you get trapped in a classroom he [the supposed active shooter] could gain access at some point in time where you have to fight.”

Although Chief Adams was not present during the campus shooting that took place six years ago, he recognizes the actions and bravery the faculty performed.

“I do know for a fact that in the shooting that occurred here [at SMC] in June of 2013, the shooter went into the library. The librarians have been trained in run, hide, fight and locked themselves in the backroom. The shooter told them that he was the police and to open the door.” Adams further emphasized the importance of the given protocol, stating, “They knew from their active shooter training to not believe in the prequel.”

In spite of the fact that the protocol “run, hide, fight” clearly includes the word fight within its realm, aggressive reactions towards the perpetrator(s) would not be wise according to the ALICE Training Institute.

ALICE, which stands for an easy to remember acronym: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate, states on their website, “ALICE Training does not believe that actively confronting a violent intruder is the best method for ensuring the safety of those involved. Counter is a strategy of last resort. Counter focuses on actions that create noise, movement, distance and distraction with the intent of reducing the shooter’s ability to shoot accurately.”

Greg Cane, a law enforcement veteran with over 30 years of experience developed the institute after the massacre that happened at Columbine High School, Colorado in 1999 where 15 deaths, including both perpetrators, occurred.

So what can one do in case of an active shooter on campus?

Chief Adams recommends downloading a free application provided by SMC called LIVESAFE on their smartphone that provides direct contact with the college’s police department.

The Chief of Police provides an example of how LIVESAFE can be of good use during the given circumstances. 

“In an active shooter case, you don’t want to be talking. You want to be as quiet as possible," he said.

Through LIVESAFE, the student has the option to message the police department by identifying themselves or remaining anonymous to explain what is happening on campus through a messaging feature. 

“You can take a photograph, a video, or even audio," he said. “Our officers are not going to mistake who we are going to deal with.”

Although all these safety precautions sound great on paper, is all this really going to help the never-ending mass shooter epidemic across the United States?

The short answer is no.

President Donald Trump met with the chief executive of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre on Sept. 27 following Mr. Trump's impeachment inquiry which was announced three days prior.

According to New York Times journalists Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni, the meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. LaPierre may have indicated the president's priority, which may be his own political survival as opposed to making any progress towards gun control.

Instead, our elected head of the country and his administration will continue to share thoughts and prayers.

As of now, that is all we can expect of him in terms of a concrete solution to gun violence.