I am a retired military veteran (Marine Corps and Utah Army National Guard) with 45 years of law enforcement experience, including the Los Angeles Police Department during the 1960s and 1970s in Watts and shift commander on the sheriff's department in Boulder, Colo., and I personally encountered numerous incidents where deadly force had to be used. I even had to take a life in my front yard as I defended my family against five armed attackers while my family and two neighbors looked on.
So I was saddened and frightened at the flawed opinion of the Deseret Morning News and the highly respected Utah Chiefs of Police Association that concluded guns should not be inside our schools. Based upon the UCPA's conclusions, I wonder how many of them have ever had to use deadly force? Those opinions tend to influence the public to the point that it could set a destructive and deadly precedent in our community that someday may prove tragic for children and adults in schools.
Make no mistake, having no guns inside schools will almost always ensure that our children and adults at some unknown location and date in America will surely die or be injured. Killers almost always pick on the helpless and weak. They love to shoot unarmed people because it's easy and safer for them. Shooting unarmed people in school or any other place is like shooting fish in a barrel to such shooters.
What the Deseret Morning News editorial did not point out and most of the general public does not fully understand is that highly trained, professional police officers and SWAT teams are second responders, not first responders. They do not have the element of surprise in a combat shooting situation. First responders are the people already at the scene, such as school officials. First responders do have the element of surprise. This is very important in shooting incidents. Rarely do second responders ever come upon the scene until the children are dead, wounded or taken hostage.
This is why it is so important to have right-thinking, well-trained people inside the schools to surprise and incapacitate the shooters at the earliest possible moment before the problem escalates.
Any right-thinking, mature person if properly trained can effectively use deadly force, even in a crowded school. A policeman's badge, the color of his uniform or his SWAT training is no assurance that things will go right. Highly trained police did not prevent the shootings at Columbine, nor have they at any other school. That is because, as second responders, they come in after the fact.
I am very familiar with many police shootings that have gone bad because of poor judgment and lack of proper training. These shootings have prompted civil lawsuits and criminal charges against the officers, their agencies and the jurisdictions they work for. New Orleans, New York and even our Granite School District police are just a few examples.
Our Founding Fathers' great wisdom is just as good now as it was when they wrote the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Our Founders thought very highly of personal protection. That is why they put the Second Amendment second only after freedom of religion and free speech.
Fred Willoughby is an adjunct professor and has taught numerous criminal justice courses over the past eight years.