Inside View

Armed vs Disarmed: The Gun Free Zone Debate
By Joel E. Gordon

In the wake of school shootings and mass casualty incidents nationwide, there has been a renewed debate surrounding guns and safety. While many believe that the best defense against “a bad guy with a gun” is a “good guy with a gun,” there are those who remarkably are calling for disarmament of the very police sworn to serve and protect.

Minnesota state Rep. Raymond Dehn famously said, as a candidate for Minneapolis mayor, that officers should be disarmed of sidearms but is not opposed to allowing them to keep guns in their cars in the event that they have to retreat to the weapons under duress. “I’m not saying they don’t have access to that, just like they have access to more lethal weapons in their cars, I would believe they would still have access to their guns in their cars.” He goes on to support the uninformed “progressive” view that officers should always have other means of self-defense, “like a night stick or pepper spray.” Dehn said, “I think as we look at how to change policing and how we get officers to not react to use their gun in situations, but learning skills around de-escalation training I think are important.”

Social activist and filmmaker Michael Moore took to Twitter in 2015 to make some demands — namely, that America’s police be disarmed.

A Google search further reveals websites, individuals and organizations advocating the same, citing other countries where police are routinely unarmed. In Britain, Ireland, Norway, Iceland and New Zealand, officers are unarmed when they are on patrol. Police are only equipped with firearms in special circumstances. Sound far-fetched for American law enforcement? Read this…

Baltimore City
School Police:
The City of Baltimore has long paid to maintain a fully accredited school police force. However, the 105 officers must remain disarmed keeping their service weapons locked up in a safe within any school that they are individually assigned to.

School officers carried guns in city schools from 2001-2015 until the practice was discovered to be in violation of a Maryland state law.

Sgt. Clyde Boatright, the president of the City School Police Union, said officers need every tool at their disposal during an interview with Baltimore television station WMAR.

“The guns need to be on our officers not in a safe,” he said, saying the current policy needs to be reformed.

“At this point, our officers are able to report via a radio to our communications department and in a sense, they must shelter in place,” said Boatright. “If they decide to go and retrieve that weapon from out of the safe they’ve essentially taken the law into their own hands and they could subject themselves to criminal charges.”

“It’s not fair at all. We’re trained, sworn, certified police officers.”

The Israeli Solution:
In 1974, Palestinian terrorists took over the Netiv Meir Elementary School which left 22 children dead and many others injured.

The attack forced Israel to come up with a solution to prevent such a situation from ever happening again. The nation requires its schools to have a security system, and that policy is still working after 40 years.

Israel’s Ministry of Education funds school security, which ranges from shelters and fences to armed and trained guards at every gate.

To take it a step further, Israel also prepares its students and teachers for the slight chance a gunman does get through security by teaching them to be proactive in times of terror by barricading a door or sensing the ripe opportunity to get away safely.

The armed guards on the doorsteps of Israel’s schools are also trained to look for any suspicious activity, which usually deters anyone with ill intent from entering in the first place.

The results are clearly evident, as there have only been two successful attacks at Israeli schools since 1974, and in both cases, the bad guys were killed by armed teachers.

Are there other issues contained within this debate that need further examination for improvement? Yes, absolutely and without question. Background checks and balances, improved reporting of individual criminal and behavioral health backgrounds along with overall adjustments to mental health diagnosis and treatments are all fair game.

The common denominator in the debate over guns and safety appears to lie within knowledge and training. Those with proper knowledge and training, such as our police, are finding solutions every day to enhance personal and societal safety. Israel has a blueprint for a plan with a 40-year track history of success. Those lacking knowledge and training are off the rails and looking to “solutions” counter to historical example, critical thought and common sense.

Let’s all look at these issues honestly and intelligently and leave those who would continue a disingenuous dialogue behind. Our lives and safety are depending on it.

Joel E. Gordon is a former Field Training Officer with the Baltimore City Police Department and is a former Chief of Police for the city of Kingwood, West Virginia. He has also served as vice-chair of a regional narcotics task force. An award-winning journalist, he is author of the book Still Seeking Justice: One Officer’s Story and founded the Facebook group Police Authors Seeking Justice. Look him up at stillseekingjustice.com