Matthew T. Mangino
The GateHouse Media
October 2, 2015
A man opened fire at Umpqua Community College in
Oregon on Thursday. News reports said that nine people were killed and another
nine were injured in the shooting.
Whether it’s a public school, college or university, leaders in buildings and
on campuses are required not only to educate but to protect. The latter
responsibility has been complicated by the random, senseless, violent rampages
that have plagued schools across the country. Educators, law enforcement and
parents are looking for answers.
For students educated in a post-Columbine America, the idea that they must
prepare for bad people who open fire in classrooms, school libraries and
playgrounds has become routine, reported the Los Angeles Times several years
The tragedies stretch from Umpqua to Newtown and are repeated in cities and
towns from coast to coast. The response to these catastrophic events by police
and educators has evolved over the years.
The U.S. Department of Education has promoted a tactic for teachers and
students to deal with an active shooter —“Run, hide or fight.”
Studies of past school shootings show that students and staff who took action
survived more than those who went into traditional lockdown and did nothing. In
the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, most of the victims were shot in the
library, where a teacher told students to get under desks and keep silent.
In the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, 30 people died in classrooms on one
floor. Of those, 28 were in classrooms where students and instructors did not
actively resist or try to escape the gunman. Other students and instructors
saved lives by barricading doors or jumping out of windows.
In the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, survivors
included students whose teachers barricaded doors, including the use of a
filing cabinet, and kids who ran from classrooms, though some students were
shot as they fled.
Unfortunately, mass shootings have gone beyond the schoolyard. In 2012, a mass
shooting occurred inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The gunman,
dressed in tactical clothing shot into the audience with multiple firearms.
Twelve people were killed and 70 others were injured.
This past June, a mass shooting took place at Emanuel African Methodist
Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. During a prayer
service, nine people were killed.
Run, hide or fight provides three options for dealing with an active
shooter—run away from the shooter, seek a secure place where you can hide or
“as a last resort when confronted by the shooter, adults in immediate danger
should consider trying to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter by using
aggressive force and items in their environment, such as fire extinguishers and
School leaders and law enforcement officials say fighting back empowers
faculty, who fear they will be helpless if a shooter attacks their classroom.
“Why would you just lie there, and just wait to – and I hate to use these
words, because it’s not sensitive – and wait to be killed when there are so
many other options out there?” Sgt. Nancy Wilkey of the Orange County Sheriff’s
Department’s told the Orange County Register. “If someone is trying to hurt
you, why wouldn’t you fight for your life?”
The news accounts out of Oregon indicate that the killer was armed with at
least four firearms. Fire extinguishers are no match for firearms, and policy
makers nationwide should take heed of President Barack Obama’s comments: “It
cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to
get his or her hands on a gun.”
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George
P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland
Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter
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