Roy Exum: From 9:35 Until 9:40

Saturday, March 10, 2018 - by Roy Exum

When Bryan Johnson said 70 percent of Hamilton County Department of Education workers were against guns in schools, he misspoke. The truth is that 100 percent of the American people don’t want any firearms in any schools at any time. That is the same percentage of Americans who believe that a gun actually being fired in a school, by anyone, is far, far worse.

Rhonda Thurman, among the top three school board members who have been blessed with superior common sense, is fully aware the only answer to a “bad gun” is a “good gun.” The reaction to that by the other school board members on Thursday night was a crystal-clear sign the school board is not and should not be in the gun business. Such as this is way above their pay grade and – to be fair -- not at all what the school board is tasked do.

Law enforcement is a much different field with the far different commanders and not one school board member knows anything about lethal force in any form. They should not need to nor be requested by the public to have anything to do with it. My mercy! The school board talks like it wants to have serious discussions, community meetings, and the like when we all know this pickle is bigger than our sheriff’s business.

You know and I know why the school board hastily voted not to let the state put a letter grade on each of our schools. Yet they yawned when a sudden $113,000 was just spent on identification gizmos without their approval. Chairman Steve Highlander said it was a decision by the “Executive Committee.” He said he and Supt. Johnson are that committee when the Super isn’t a member of the school board.

The county owns the schools and the county’s top lawman is Sheriff Jim Hammond. The sheriff directs the School Resource Officers in 28 of the 75 schools, which must be immediately corrected to include a trained, armed officer at every county school. Mayor Jim Coppinger and the County Commission should send word immediately that Supt. Johnson should hire full-time counselors for every school but that’s where those boundary lines end.

“Realistic Rhonda” has studied what has been learned from the Sandy Hook School massacre on December 14, 2012. And obviously the other members have not. She can tell you a child was shot and killed every 17 seconds. There is no way to explain or understand to this very day why 20-year-old Adam Lanza picked the Newton, Mass. school or why he killed 20 children between six and seven years old.

What we do know is that Lanza shot and killed his mother in her bed before driving her car to the K-4th grade building. All the doors were locked and to get access required a visitor to be seen through a video camera and produce a valid ID so both could be recorded before the doors were unlocked.

But, no … At 9:35 a.m. Lanza instead shot his way into the school by shattering a glass window panel next to the locked doors to easily get inside the building. Immediately several calls were made from inside the school to 911 (the first 30 seconds after Lanza shot his way through the glass). Using his mother’s Bushmaster semi-automatic carbine – such an assault rifle shoots 45 rounds per minute – he began his carnage. He also had two semi-automatic pistols, which by Connecticut law cannot be owned or carried by any person under the age of 21.

After Lanza murdered the principal and the school psychologist in the hallway, he went from one classroom after another. The first Newtown police car arrived on school grounds at 9:39 a.m. and others seconds later. The police officers heard only one shot – Lanza committing suicide with one of the pistols at 9:40 as the sounds of sirens grew.

In just that five-minute span, Lanza fired his weapons 156 times … yes, that’s 30 times per minute. Or, a trigger-pull every other second. Lanza shot all but two of his 26 victims multiple times. Most of the shooting took place in two first-grade classrooms near the entrance of the school. The students among the victims totaled eight boys and twelve girls, all either six or seven years of age, and the six adults were all women who worked at the school. (The matricide and suicide added, 28 died in the Newtown shooting.) Two were wounded.

Newtown police first entered the school at 9:45 a.m., approximately ten minutes after the first 911 call and approximately fourteen minutes after the shooting had started. This was five minutes after the last shot was heard. The first state trooper arrived at 9:46. No shots were fired by the police.

Once again, it all happened in five minutes. The doors were locked. The video camera worked. But no one in the school could protect a child other than hiding them. Hamilton County just made an emergency buy of Raptor identification machines for each school, this at a knee-jerk cost of $113,000. In the Sandy Hook incident, all of them in a pile wouldn’t have been worth a nickel, despite what any Raptor salesman might say.

The Sandy Hook shooter got into a secure school quite easily, as is the case at any similar building where “bad guns” care not one bit for metal detectors, ID machines nor any other material device or vehicle you can name. Evil doesn’t obey laws or rules and does not play according to boundary lines. The only conceivable way that any and all experts agree how to stop 30 rounds of hot ammo per minute is with bullets from the other way.

If 70 percent of the HCDE crowd doesn’t want guns in the schools, let’s talk to the other 30 percent who will try to protect them and every child when a bad gun barks 156 times in the five minutes before our very best officers can get there. In 2014 the Tennessee legislature approved guns in schools but it was a cumbersome bill. A forthcoming bill is imminent that will hopefully give sheriffs the discretion to safe-guard the schools based of the varying needs of each.

Tennessee’s smaller counties cannot afford SROs – the cost is why no elementary schools in Hamilton County have them. “You don’t have the behavioral problems you see in middle and high schools,” said Sheriff Hammond, “but with the Florida tragedy and other shootings, we need to change a lot of things. I never dreamed it would come to this … but it has.”

In the hours following the Sandy Hook massacre, a state police officer was interviewing a 7-year-old girl. She had been hiding in a bathroom with two teachers and told police that she heard a boy in the classroom screaming, "Help me! I don't want to be here!" to which the twisted gunman Lanza responded, "Well, you're here.” And instantly, more rapid fire was heard as an answer to the child’s voice.

It takes the police, on average, five minutes -- anywhere in the United States -- to get to almost any catastrophe on their best day. A shooter pulls the trigger every two seconds. Twenty children were killed at Sandy Hook. You want anybody shooting back? Hate guns in schools with every fiber in your body, but ever since Davy Crockett tried to defend the Alamo, an answering gun is the only thing that works.

Only a good gun can beat a bad gun. Face it. Children die without the good gun.

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