About that armed deputy at Columbine

Posted by: Phineas on December 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm

**Posted by Phineas

In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school, some have suggested that perhaps, since “gun-free zones” have been shown to be ineffective at best and an invitation to disaster at worst, it might be a good idea to have people qualified to carry firearms at schools.  Whether it’s faculty and staff, or police officers, or paid armed security, the idea is the same: take down the shooter as fast as possible, because every second counts.

In reply, some gun-control advocates have pointed out that there was an armed deputy at Columbine High School in 1999 when two teens went on their rampage. Fair enough, but that’s not the whole story. NRO’s Dan Foster supplies important information the anti-Second Amendment forces don’t mention:

…but it isn’t like the deputy was sitting around eating doughnuts during the Columbine massacre. He traded fire (that is, he drew fire) with Harris for an extended period of time, during which Harris’s gun jammed. The deputy and the backup he immediately called for exchanged fire with the shooters a second time and helped begin the evacuation of students, all before the SWAT teams and the rest of the cavalry arrived, and before Harris and Klebold killed themselves in the library. Harris and Klebold had an assault plan — a sloppy plan, but a plan nonetheless. They had dozens of IEDs, some of which detonated, others of which did not. And there were two of them. In this highly chaotic tactical environment, the deputy acted both bravely and prudently, and who knows how many lives he saved by engaging Harris.

This illustrates an important point liberty-advocates have been trying to make in this “debate:” the point of an armed defender isn’t just that he can (we hope) kill or otherwise neutralize the shooter. The armed defender also distracts the gunman, drawing his attention away from his intended targets, giving them time to escape. While 13 students were killed by Harris and Klebold, untold others were saved precisely because there was someone armed on campus. Far from being an example of the uselessness of armed, trained defenders (1) in schools, Columbine illustrates why we should want them on the scene.

It does not make one a drooling, mouth-breathing gun nut to wish someone at Sandy Hook had been similarly armed.

One other point. As David Kopel argues in the WSJ Online, mass shooters are often easily stopped by armed civilians, sometimes even taking themselves out:

Finally, it must be acknowledged that many of these attacks today unfortunately take place in pretend “gun-free zones,” such as schools, movie theaters and shopping malls. According to Ron Borsch’s study for the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato, active shooters are different from the gangsters and other street toughs whom a police officer might engage in a gunfight. They are predominantly weaklings and cowards who crumble easily as soon as an armed person shows up.

The problem is that by the time the police arrive, lots of people are already dead. So when armed citizens are on the scene, many lives are saved. The media rarely mention the mass murders that were thwarted by armed citizens at the Shoney’s Restaurant in Anniston, Ala. (1991), the high school in Pearl, Miss. (1997), the middle-school dance in Edinboro, Penn. (1998), and the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. (2007), among others.

At the Clackamas Mall in Oregon last week, an active shooter murdered two people and then saw that a shopper, who had a handgun carry permit, had drawn a gun and was aiming at him. The murderer’s next shot was to kill himself.

(via Dan Mitchell)

The same thing occurred at Sandy Hook: as first responders closed in, the killer killed himself. But that was after several minutes had gone by, giving him plenty of time to kill and kill and kill even more.

Again, wouldn’t it have been better if someone trained in the use of firearms and in how to respond had been on the scene from the start? How many might have been saved?

(1) If one is uncomfortable with teachers or other staff being armed, school districts could also look at hiring private security that uses former military or off-duty police.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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18 Responses to “About that armed deputy at Columbine”


  1. ST says:

    Excellent post. 1) I did not know there had been an armed deputy at Columbine and 2) I had no idea anyone (let alone him) had played a role in hindering any more murders by the perps.

  2. AH says:

    I also did not know that there was an armed guard at Columbine.
    And I’d also like to add that there are many retired military who are now teachers. Maybe they could have a choice to be armed?

  3. Drew the Infidel says:

    There are 150 school districts in TX that have their own police forces. One in paritcular, Harrold, authorizes teachers to be armed on duty because as the superintendent said, “We are our own first responder.” Like it or not, this is what the world is coming to. As with airport security, we are well on our way to adopting “the Israeli model” for school security. Unless and until there is a drastically changed approach there will continue to be more Sandy Hook, Ft. Hood, Aurora movie house, and Virginia Tech, etc. type incidents.

  4. lost says:


  5. Carlos says:

    Now that you’ve brought it up again, I do remember reading at the time that there was an armed guard at Columbine, but if memory serves, it was a minor statement in a long article that could have been easily missed or ignored.

    Lord knows, the LSM surely wouldn’t want that kind of information to make it out to the public because, miracle of miracles, such information just might influence people to want protection in “gun-free zones” and we couldn’t have that now, could we? Not even “for the children.

  6. Tango says:

    ….one of the things that nobody seems to have mentioned is that by “allowing” teachers to be armed in schools, you are creating a “target rich environment” for Shysters ‘R Us should there be an event such as Columbine. Think about it.

    The other issue that comes to mind (if the federales get involved in this) would be they’d almost certainly try to create another big government boondoggle like the TSA.

    Wouldn’t that be just dandy?

  7. Carlos says:

    You’ve got a point there, Tango.

    I mean, look at what an excellent job the feds have done creating fools for their indoctrination corps. Or corpse, if you’re the Smarter-than-the-rest-of-the-world prez.

  8. Brontefan says:

    Excellent information. Like always… the media fails to completely vet the story. Clearly, concealed carry is the only real defense.

  9. Phineas says:


    ….one of the things that nobody seems to have mentioned is that by “allowing” teachers to be armed in schools, you are creating a “target rich environment” for Shysters ‘R Us should there be an event such as Columbine. Think about it.

    Good point. There would need to be some sort of “safe harbor” legislation. Though they might already be covered under the idea that the police are not obligated to protect you.

    The other issue that comes to mind (if the federales get involved in this) would be they’d almost certainly try to create another big government boondoggle like the TSA.

    Yep. Foster criticizes a federal approach, too, and I agree. Along with education in general, the level and means of protection should be a state or local matter.

  10. CT Teacjer says:

    Living and working as a teacher a mere 5 miles away from the Sandy Hook massacre, I am in a state of shock. This week, my school and all the schools in the greater Danbury area, had at least one policeman in every school. It made me feel safer to have the officer there. But I know, that kind of protection will not last.

    So what is the answer?

    Last year, I got assaulted when a boy came into my classroom in a rage. I had locked my door, but the door was defective and hadn’t closed totally. I tried to stop him from attacking a girl in my room, but he threw me into a metal support pole and beat her up.

    So what is the answer?

    Perhaps if all schools had at least a safety advocate (unarmed) so that incidents of potential violence could be monitored and authorities called. Would an unarmed safety advocate have been able to stop the slaughter of 26 children and staff in Sandy HooK?

    Perhaps we should arm all school principals and train them to protect and preserve life? If dear Dawn had had access to a gun, I think she just may have killed the assailant. She was a fierce and mighty educator.

    I do not know a logical answer. This is a spiritual issue and evil appears to be overcoming good.

    I am so sad and so confused and so glad to be on vacation for 11 days. I never knew I had so many tears in me.

    But, again, I ask – what is the answer?

  11. Jay.Mac says:

    One solution to the armed teachers/staff proposal I’ve heard is for a gun cabinet to be placed in, for example, the Principle’s office, containing a rifle and a high-visibility jacket (to identify the staff member when police do show up). A number of staff could be trained in the use of the weapon and keeping it in a secure location means that there’s no risk from a handgun being left in a teacher’s desk or being dropped during an altercation with a student. Just look at the numerous stories of police officers leaving their gun in bathrooms, etc.

    There’s no perfect solution here- to name one, I’m sure in some parts of the country you won’t find a single teacher willing to undergo weapon training (perhaps there they could look at hiring vets to do the job for them). However, an imperfect plan is better than no plan at all.

  12. GPSkeet says:

    I wonder how many teachers would be willing to take the necessary classes to learn Firearm Safety, and Defensive training to protect their students. As the unfortunate deaths of teachers at Sandy Hook prove, no use trying to talk sense into someone who shows up at a school with a gun, and intends to use it. Hiding children in closets isn’t always going to work as well. Just the thought of Armed teachers in an elementary school, or a high school, would certainly be a deterrent to this type of violence, as well as improving the attitude of some of those with oversized pants. I have had a concealed permit in 2 different states for years. I taught Gun Safety programs. I had an occasion at one time to be able to save a few lives if needed. The police that responded were very happy that I happened to be there. I think any teacher that doesn’t feel safer knowing that a person with handgun training is close by to help their kids is too dumb to be teaching anyhow.

  13. Jay.Mac says:

    Just learned that Utah already allows teachers and other school staff to carry their weapons at work- http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/an-opinion-on-gun-control/

  14. kevin trudell says:

    This is really astounding stuff. The clod from the NRA implies that armed personel in schools will be a solution to the problem of school killings, but above, it is admitted that no armed guard or police officer can be counted on to prevent all killings in such circumstances. ONLY THIRTEEN children died at Columbine. Problem solved.

  15. Jeniwhitehurst Whitehurst says:

    I’m sure you would see the value in the armed guards If your child was to have been casuaty number 14.

  16. Carlos says:

    Your willful ignorance is amazing, kevin. I’ll bet you expect your tax bill to go down in 2013, and that your free health care will be absolutely top-flight, just as good as the health care of those who voted for ObamaCare to begin with.

    No one is saying the killings have been or will be stopped. What you so blissfully ignore is they are saying the carnage in Columbine was limited to thirteen but would have been (not “could” have been) much, much worse had the armed guard not been there and willing to engage the shooters.

    Or haven’t you noticed that nearly every other school shooting has happened in “gun free zones” where the shooters were not stopped until armed response was available and on-site? THAT’S the willful ignorance I’m talking about.