Outdoor Channel on Wednesday will debut its first documentary film arguing for the arming of school teachers and volunteers to deter active shooters.
Safe Haven: Gun Free Zones in America argues through a series of interviews with experts and victims of violence that gun-free zones create an easy target for mass shooters and strip law-abiding citizens’ right to protect themselves and others with their own firearms.
“On average … of these public active shooters, someone is going to get shot every 8-10 seconds,” said self defense instructor Edward Monk. “So, it becomes a matter of time management. They usually end when somebody acts to stop it. How close somebody is to that crime will determine how quickly it can be ended.”
The film uses data from gun violence researcher John R. Lott Jr. that shows since 1950 all but two of the places where mass shootings occurred were gun free zones. The July 2012 Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shootings were cases the film used to highlight the argument that shooters seek out gun-free zones.
“It appears that they are seeking a spot that will keep them from being prevented in accomplishing their mission,” said J. Eric Deitz, a homeland security researcher at Purdue University’s College of Technology. “And if their mission is mass casualties, they’re going to want to be undisturbed in that process until they’ve completed it.”
Deitz said that the average police response time in the country is 10 minutes and can vary widely based on population density.
According to a computer model created by Deitz and others at Purdue, reducing the response time in an active shooter situation can limit the amount of people killed, an average of 24, by his calculations. One way to drive down response time, the documentary argues, is to allow the citizenry to arm themselves.
Several factors can be programmed into the simulation, like frequency of shots fired, typical response time for a specific community and a percentage of faculty carrying concealed guns. Deitz said that in all simulations, concealed carrying faculty took a conservative approach in their response and didn’t try to replicate police action. Teachers in the simulation were programmed to seek shelter and huddle with their students, taking a protective posture in front of the students to engage the shooter.
Having resource officers present reduced the amount of casualties significantly in active shooter scenarios, but also adding concealed carriers showed the largest reduction in deaths, Deitz said.
The problem with hiring more guards in schools across the country is that “you’re starting to look another $15 billion a year,” said Steven Strauss, a Weinberg/Goldman Sachs visiting professor of public policy at Princeton University.
Strauss said that the amount of school shootings is so small that the probability someone’s child will be killed over the course of a year is one in several million.
“Shooting incidents at schools is so low that you run into a real risk that the cure is going to be worse than the disease,” Strauss said.
Others have contended that allowing guns in schools can cause additional problems.
“The proposal to arm teachers and volunteers in our schools is a distraction and it’s very dangerous,” said Chaska, Minnesota, Police Chief Scott Knight during his January 2013 testimony at a Washington hearing on gun violence.
Knight went further to say that guns open a host of security issues for schools and that even highly-trained police have a hard time engaging active shooters.
“It takes a great deal of training, something that our teachers and principals and superintendents aren’t inclined to do,” Knight said.
The creation of gun free zones is reactionary, according to the film, and has typically occurred in response to acts of violence.
“The death of a child is one of the most horrible things I can possibly imagine,” said Eric Katzenberg, a TV and documentary film producer. “And I know that the entire country was in such mourning that just like anyone in mourning reaching for answers and those answers are going to be driven by your own emotions.”
But Safe Haven doesn’t just focus on children. The film includes an interview with Amanda Collins, a college student at the University of Nevada, Reno, who was raped one night in October 2007 while walking to her car after a night class. Collins said she could have stopped her attacker had she been carrying her gun, which the school prohibited.
“How does rendering me defenseless protect you against a violent crime?” Collins said.
Collins’ attacker, James Biela, was carrying a gun that night. Three months later he raped another girl, 19-year-old Brianna Dennison, and killed her.
“I’ve replayed that incident in my head over and over and it has kept me up at night,” Collins said. “As I said before when I testified, I know without a doubt in my mind that there is a particular point in time during my attack that I would have been able to stop it as it was in progress. I’m not saying I could have prevented the rape from starting with the way that I was grabbed … but I know that I would have been able to stop it.”
Collins said that had she been allowed to carry her firearm, she may have prevented Biela from raping and killing Dennison.
In 2012, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld an earlier death sentence handed to Biela – who police called a serial rapist – for several counts of kidnapping, sexual assault and murder.
Safe Haven reports there are 3,000 reported rapes on campuses across the country. According to December 2014 data from the U.S. Department of Justice, on average each year, 3,488 female students between the ages of 18 and 24 faced the threat of rape or sexual assault; 9,714 were sexually assaulted; 7,864 underwent an attempted rape and 10,237 were raped. The statistics were tabulated from an average annual population of more than 5.1 million sfemale students for the period between 1995 and 2013 and only considered those crimes reported to police and not to other officials or administrators.
“I know from personal experience that a lot of rapes go unreported. And so realizing that, I could have defended myself. And beyond that, a life could have been saved and another woman didn’t have to be raped,” Collins said.