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Expert’s school shooting lessons for parents, students

Mourners gather at a vigil that was held for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Jim Rassol/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
LISTEN: What to teach parents, students about school shooting events

The first time Greg Burns was in a school shooting event, he was a high school student. He watched his friends get shot.

Burns now teaches safety and emergency preparedness at Seattle’s Tactical Training Academy, but talking about school shootings has a more emotional, personal affect on him. As America faces yet another fatal incident at a school, Burns has a few insights to relate to parents and students.

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“Watching kids huddle on the floor, under their desks, describing the sound of rifle fire … getting closer and closer – and they don’t know what to do,” Burns told KIRO Nights. “That is completely unacceptable. We have to get into our classrooms, we have to get into our families, we have to talk with our kids and we have to teach them. You have to empower them to move, to evade, to defend, to take action.”

There are three main things a student or teacher should do in a school shooting event, according to Burns:

  • Move: “Schools, businesses, work places — we are still teaching this lockdown technique. And I don’t know why that is. I think we’ve seen enough incidents where people have tried to lockdown, and the fact is that if you are armed with a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun or an AR-15, chances are I am going to be able to get into your classroom. Especially if I have enough time and enough planning like we saw recently. We need to stop teaching that and we need to start teaching people to get away. Move if you can identify where the threat is coming from.”
  • Evade: “Not locking down — that means making your safe location impossible for someone to enter. That is a full-scale barricade. That is learning how to use your belt and a 2X4 to make a door impassable by connecting it to the butterfly hinge. These things all take training to do.”
  • Defending: “We recently had an event in Spokane where a brave young man confronted a shooter at a school and tried to talk him down … I wondered to myself sometimes if he had gone through training on what to do, if instead of doing that he would have survived. Because he would have decided to move, or he would have decided to pick up a chair and throw it at the guy’s head, and in the time that it takes for that aggressor’s mind to react to that stimulus, he is out the door and gone.”

When dealing with small children, however, Burns said that they should be taught to hide, and well. He stresses that hiding is not curling up under a desk.

Good guy with a gun during a school shooting

One common question that Burns gets: should teachers be armed with guns, just in case of a school shooting incident? He usually answers with a story.

“When I was in law enforcement I heard of a story of an off-duty sergeant who went into a McDonald’s – off-duty, plain clothes, and carrying,” Burns said. “Some guy ended up coming in and robbing this McDonald’s. This off-duty police officer ended up drawing his firearm and getting into a gunfight with this bad guy and killing that bad guy.”

“But during that course of fire, one of the rounds of that gunfire ended up hitting a 12-year-old girl having a birthday party and killing her,” he said. “My point in telling that story is really simple: That officer had thousands, and thousands of hours of training on how to use a firearm and how to do so safely. Still, with all of that, when he was put into a situation that he wasn’t ready for, wasn’t prepared for, there ended up being casualties.”

The job of a teacher, Burns said, is not to be a firearms expert. He said that firearms can end a use-of-force situation quickly, but it requires thousands of hours of training and “an ability to have responsibility for every bullet that you put down range and for the bullets drawn toward you.”

“That being said, if the school district has invested in a partnership and reached out to the local law enforcement about having a student resource officer on campus, that is a much better solution,” he said.

Listen to Burns’ full conversation on KIRO Nights here.

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