In Sidney, Ohio school and public safety officials have worked together over the last five years to develop an all-volunteer first responder team in all local schools. Although these volunteers are not physically armed with weapons, they do have quick access to guns strategically placed in various hidden spots on school grounds in the event an armed response is needed.
In the spring of 2018, along with writer Alan Cassidy on assignment for Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, I entered Sidney High School, expecting to meet a bunch of Yosemite Sam looking, gun-slinging, trigger-happy yahoos intent on shooting anything that moves. Much to my surprise, I met a group of people, whose logical and methodical approach to gun violence made me, perhaps not a believer, but one who appreciated their perspective.
Sidney school superintendent John Scheu, explained it this way: It takes 3½ to 4 minutes for law enforcement to arrive on the scene once a 911 call has been placed. This is in addition to the time it takes for those under attack to find a refuge, calm down and call 911 for help which means significant time has elapsed before a distress call is ever made. An armed attack kills or injures a person every seventeen seconds. Thus a reasonable approach is to develop a means of cutting the response time - making it significantly shorter by placing the means of reaction on the premises and train volunteers to use those weapons.
The Shelby County Sheriff, John Lenhart, said it even more succinctly: “I don’t have time for politicians and psychologists to figure out why we have an epidemic of gun violence.” Instead, his focus is on ensuring a shooter is neutralized in the shortest time and with the least number of casualties possible by training a volunteer team to use weapons to defend the children under the care of the school system.
The process they devised is rather simple. Volunteers submit a confidential application to be part of the First Responder Team to the superintendent of the schools. The superintendent then reviews the applicants and select candidated are chosen to undergo a rigorous training program. The Sheriff is quick to point out that the training is more rigorous than the actual training provided to his deputies. Those who pass the training program become members of First Responders. Additionally, the identities of the volunteers and the location of the guns in the schools are kept secret and they participate in monthly training practicing various scenarios.
In the end, my prejudice about the sort of people I was expecting to see turned out to be just that: an unfounded prejudice. What I saw was rather, a group of concerned educators trying to do their best to provide a safe and secure space for children to get an education, despite the gun laws and political atmosphere we currently live with. Unfortunately, sensible gun laws will not happen anytime soon and the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) will continue to buy power in our communities and political system.