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Newtown shooting: Why Minutemen can protect against active shooters

“Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.”
— John F. Kennedy, 1961

Once again we sit stunned, watching the news coverage of a slaughter committed by an active shooter in Newtown, Connecticut. This time, far different from most school shootings, it was not a current or recent student but an outsider who forced his way in to attack the school. Even worse, this time the monster attacked little children — first graders.

Retired U.S. Army Ranger Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman has predicted such an attack for years and he compares his fictional scenario to the 1974 Ma’alot Massacre, a watershed attack on school children in Israel.

Colonel Grossman describes a worst-case scenario in which the attack is carried out by a terrorist team, similar to the 2004 massacre at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia (Russian Federation).

In Grossman’s worst-case scenario, the American public will demand armed protection for every school and every school bus. Since our police and military resources are already stretched to their limit, would every school in the country close until sufficient protectors are hired and trained?

With so many children out of school for a year or more, how many parents would be forced to quit their jobs to care for their kids? Our already fragile economy would collapse.

Since the attack at the Sandy Hook Elementary School was not committed by a team of terrorists, but by yet another “troubled” young man, the public reaction will be more subdued. But the need to protect groups of innocents from attack by “lone wolf” active shooters has reached a point that demands action.

As a nation, we will argue in the coming months about potential preventions for these mass murders. Some will demand gun bans. Others will blame the mental health system. While our politicians and media point fingers and argue over causes and solutions, we sheepdogs can ignore the rhetoric and establish a system to protect our flock.

As I stated, there are simply too few active police or military personnel (including national guardsmen) to staff every school and every bus long-term. But, by looking back to our nation’s founding, we have a no-cost solution readily available.

We need Minutemen to come forward and guard our lambs. Unfortunately, the noble concept of a militia has been bastardized by right-wing fringe groups adopting that name in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but we must overlook them.

Webster defines a militia as: “an organization of citizens with limited military training who are available for emergency service, usually for local defense.” I suggest we organize Minutemen at the state and local level, using these individuals to put an armed protector (in plain clothes with concealed weapons) in every school and on every bus.

The volunteer Minutemen would be required to train periodically — at least a few days each year. Minutemen would, of course, need to be screened to keep out both those of evil intent and ill-equipped “wannabes.” We already have the perfect screening process in place in every state, the background check system we use to hire police and issue concealed weapon permits.

Minutemen must be exempted from every geographic restriction placed on those who currently carry concealed weapons. Virtually every mass killing in recent memory has occurred in a “gun-free zone.” We must authorize our Minutemen to carry everywhere, especially in gun-free zones.

Category 1 Minutemen: The Sheepdogs We Already Know and Trust
The core of my proposal revolves around the hundreds of thousands of former law enforcement officers already qualified for nationwide concealed carry under the federal Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act (LEOSA - HR 218).

These men and women are fully trained, experienced sheepdogs. I am certain countless thousands of these former enforcers would readily step up to donate a couple of days each month to covertly sit in a school or ride on a bus with their concealed weapon. They would, at their own expense, provide their weapon and ammunition, and they would be required to train at least quarterly.

Many of these sheepdogs, like me, no longer have the strength or reflexes to go up against hardened terrorists, but we can certainly handle the cowardly young monsters who most often commit these atrocities.

Category 2 Minutemen: The Untapped Reservoir of Retired Warriors
By expanding the LEOSA statute, we can incorporate hundreds of thousands of retired military personnel into the ranks of Minutemen.

Again, we already know these people to be vetted, honorable citizens who have proven their willingness to protect their country. These experienced warriors are often even better prepared for battle than our police officers.

But since their training was focused on war, not law enforcement, retired military members would need specific training on legal use-of-force, in addition to the periodic in-service training required of all Minutemen.

Category 3 Minutemen: Honest, Armed Citizens
The third huge reservoir of potential Minutemen can come from the millions of U.S. citizens who have jumped through the legal hoops necessary to obtain a CCW permit (Carrying a Concealed Weapon) in their state.

These citizens have been screened through a background check system, and in most states are required to have some weapon safety and use of force training.

We must require further screening for CCW Minutemen to determine their suitability for elevation from the self-protection level to public-protection status. Their initial training would parallel that provided to citizens in Category 2, followed by the continuing in-service requirement.

This category of Minutemen includes armed school teachers, including the hundreds who already carry concealed weapons in their schools, spending every day protecting children in their gun-free zones.

The re-establishment of the American Minutemen could easily provide the huge numbers of protectors envisioned in Lt. Col. Grossman’s scenario. The system could be established almost immediately from the Category 1 pool of retired law enforcement officers and be rapidly expanded by re-writing LEOSA to include retired military personnel.

Further down the road, states could consider the development of a “Level 2” CCW system to incorporate properly screened and trained CCW holders.

In every mass shooting in recent history a single armed, competent protector could have saved lives by taking down the active shooter before they fully ran their plan. Even sensible gun control proponents should embrace the use of Category 1 and Category 2 Minutemen, who have already established track records as armed protectors.

There will be myriad details to work out. How will we identify our Minutemen when they take action? Arriving police will need a standardized sign of their status. How will we train our Minutemen? We will need an organization to conduct the training, keep training records, and develop a schedule of assignments.

I can confidently predict we will see hundreds of thousands stand in line to volunteer for Minutemen service. A Minuteman’s reward will be nothing more than; time away from their other pursuits, placing themselves in potential danger … and the chance to serve, once again.

The Minuteman’s maxim will be a simple one: “Not here! Not today! These children are safe because I am here with my weapon and my training.”

Once a sheepdog, always a sheepdog.

Dick Fairburn has had more than 26 years of law enforcement experience in both Illinois and Wyoming. He has worked patrol, investigations and administration assignments. Dick has also served as a Criminal Intelligence Analyst, and as the Section Chief of a major academy’s Firearms Training Unit and Critical Incident Training program.