Columnist John Sheirer: Trump's shooting boast terrible advice

  • President Donald Trump, accompanied by Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, left, speaks while meeting with law enforcement officers at the Broward County Sheriff's Office in Pompano Beach, Fla., on Feb. 16,  following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla. AP FILE PHOTO

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Donald Trump’s proposal to arm teachers is being widely and rightly criticized by law-enforcement experts and education professionals.

As a teacher myself, I understand how bringing weapons into the classroom changes teaching and learning from a nurturing activity that makes the world a better place into a militarized atmosphere where violence is more likely and more deadly.

When I look around at my colleagues during faculty meetings, I’m thankful that I don’t see people with cowboy/Rambo fantasies. I’m sure they feel the same way about me.

We already have full-time jobs as teachers. Being armed security guards is another career altogether. And any teacher who longs to strap on a sidearm as they interact with students on a daily basis has no business in any classroom.

But pushing to arm teachers isn’t the worst thing Trump has said recently, as difficult as that is to believe. He attacked members of the Parkland, Florida, sheriff’s department for not rushing into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as a deadly shooting took place there last month. “They weren’t exactly Medal of Honor winners, all right?” Trump opined. “The way they performed was frankly disgusting.”

Then Trump degraded the standards for presidential discourse to perhaps the most absurd level ever: “I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.”

Setting aside his attack on law enforcement officers before all the facts have been uncovered, Trump simply sounds delusional. His credibility as a man of heroic action is questionable at best. Many observers have rightly pointed out that Trump avoided service in Vietnam on tenuous medical grounds, earning him the nickname, “Cadet Bone Spurs.” The words, “frankly disgusting,” best describe Trump’s own well-documented misbehavior, often a mix of rampant hedonism and self-aggrandizement unbefitting an actual hero.

But Trump’s false bravado shows something even worse than his gross personal failing. His assertion that he would have rushed into the school is exactly what law enforcement experts advise people not — repeat, not — to do in an active-shooter situation.

Moving toward a shooting puts a person in greater danger, obviously. More importantly, such rash action complicates the situation for law-enforcement officers. They don’t know whether a random person rushing into a crime scene is the shooter or a frantic bystander. There’s a good chance that officers would be forced to fire on someone following Trump’s fantasy example.

Assuming officers determine that a particular intruder isn’t a shooter, they then have to divert their attention and resources to keep this person safe instead of pursuing the actual shooter. That diversion gives the shooter more time to escape or even kill more people. Basically, the misguided, pseudo-heroic charge that Trump described is much more likely to make the situation far worse, not better.

The best strategy recommended by experts during a shooting is called, “Run-Hide-Fight.” Option one: Run to safety away from the shooting. Option two: Hide in a secure area out of the shooter’s view and try to fortify your position. Option Three: If running and/or hiding are impossible, as a last resort, try to incapacitate the shooter any way you can.

The Parkland sheriff’s deputies may not have acted as heroically as possible, but we don’t have all the facts yet, and neither does Trump. We may never know exactly what happened. Now is not the time to blame police officers with a scarcity of evidence. None of us, armed or unarmed, know how we would react to an adversary with a semiautomatic rifle. I hope no one reading these words ever has to find out.

Whatever the officers’ behavior might have been, that doesn’t change the fact that “Run-Hide-Fight” is the best option. Of course, these “best” options are all terrible because they constitute damage control instead of prevention.

The actual best option is the one Republican politicians have opposed for decades: enacting sensible gun-safety laws that help keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.

As Trump, his fellow Republicans, and the National Rifle Association push to arm teachers, their motives are transparent. They know that providing guns, ammunition, and training for even a modest percentage of teachers would be a weapons windfall for the gun industry that would easily soar into millions if not billions of dollars.

Just as what President Dwight Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” profits from continual war, the “gun-fear complex” would profit from militarizing our schools.

The “Run-Hide-Fight” video produced by the Department of Homeland Security is easy to find with a simple internet search. The video dramatizes a mass shooting, which can be disturbing to watch. But it could also save the lives of people who might find themselves in such a horrible situation. I wish Trump would watch and learn.

This video reminds us that, as in all things, we should seek the guidance of professionals who know what they’re talking about while we tune out the misinformer-in-chief.

Not only does Trump’s boast that he would rush into an active shooting sound like the ranting of a bloviating narcissist, but he’s also offering dreadful advice that puts people’s lives in danger. His comments, like most of his presidency, are a menace to the nation.

John Sheirer is an author and teacher who lives in Florence. His most recent book is the satire, “Donald Trump’s Top Secret Concession Speech.” Find him at JohnSheirer.com.