OPINION: Active shooters: Are committees slowing progress?

Since we have three grandchildren still in college, I get nervous whenever I hear about a shooting on a college campus.

All of us have heard about the recent shootings in Lansing, Mich., and I suspect most of us read with interest the headline about the University of Arkansas having a committee to study safety on its campuses. One suggestion was to build an app for phones that could contact the safety police by simply pushing a button.

Now, I don't know about you, but it is frustrating to have people sitting around in a committee thinking about something when they should be out doing something. Pushing a button on a phone is at its best simply reactive. When a person recognizes that assault weapons are the preferred choice for killing people, it takes only a little thought to realize that an AR-15 can shoot off five to seven bullets a second bumped (fully automatic) and two to three bullets a second by simply pulling the trigger each time. You get the picture. By the time security arrives, scores of people may already be dead or wounded.

There are a lot of good ideas about how to be proactive and to prevent a shooting from taking place on a college campus. Let me suggest a few obvious ones.

First, since it is impossible to have a security guard at each classroom and dormitory, it is imperative that the school provide detailed training for its instructors on what to do should an active shooter show up. There should be an exit strategy or place to hide that everyone knows about. Surely, that would involve having a lock on the door with a metal protection guard over it, and careful instructions to the students about what to do in such a situation.

It's also important to know something about weapons. An AR-15 normally shoots a 0.223 bullet. Look at that bullet size more closely. It is simply a glorified .22 bullet many people use to shoot varmints, but with a much more powerful cartridge. These bullets go very fast, but they do not have the knockdown power of, say, a .45-caliber handgun. Thus, it's very likely an active shooter cannot shoot a lock off a classroom door with an AR-15 that is protected by a metal shield. That isn't totally true, but it does provide a healthy amount of protection for students. Also, it should be pointed out that while someone may be a good shot with a long-barrel weapon, such is not the case with a handgun. Hitting someone beyond 30 feet with a handgun is not as easy as it sounds. Let's start with locking our classroom doors during sessions with strong locks.

Second, you really don't have to have a security guard at every door, since technology now has provided a way to identify and sound a loud alarm should someone attempt to enter with almost any kind of weapon. Elementary schools and high schools now routinely make everyone entering selected buildings go through a security checkpoint. Why not colleges?

Third, I am still waiting for new construction to catch up on good security features. Have you ever been to a hospital to visit someone and suddenly someone calls a "Code Red" for fire? They have these huge doors that automatically slam shut sealing everyone inside a particular section of the hospital. Why not build such protective features in our schools? Can you imagine an active shooter thinking he or she can wander up and down the school's hallways shooting at people randomly only to discover that he or she is locked into a very small area of the school? Yes, it would be tough to be locked in that area with an active shooter, but it sure would limit the damage and guarantee catching the shooter.

I know a lot of people believe the answer to active shooters is to arm the people who are in the classroom, but can you just imagine what it would be like for people in a classroom to have a shootout with an active shooter with so many innocent students in between? It's kind of like the suggestion to arm people in a church as a deterrent to an active shooter. Sometimes I have nightmares thinking about someone on the front row of a church sanctuary shooting across all of the other worshipers at a shooter in the back. Excuse me, but I would rather stay at home than be exposed to that kind of situation.

Perhaps it is time to stop sitting around in a committee thinking about a problem and to get busy becoming proactive in preventing the problem. I have only listed a few things we might do to help protect our students. There are a great many more. I have sat in on several seminars dealing with school and church safety, and I know the information is out there if we will simply utilize it.

Robert Box has been a law enforcement chaplain for 30 years. He is a master-level chaplain with the International Conference of Police Chaplains and is an endorsed chaplain with the American Baptist Churches USA. He also currently serves as a deputy sheriff chaplain for the Benton County Sheriff's Office. Opinions expressed are those of the author and not the agencies he serves.