An armed deputy stayed outside Parkland High School in Florida while a shooter gunned down students and staff inside the building.
What would I have done?
I like to think that if I had been there with my legally permitted handgun, I would have rushed inside, confronted the shooter and killed him. President Trump says that is what he would have done, even if he had not been armed.
I have my doubts about both of us.
Most of us detest murderers, especially those who kill children. We would want to stop the slaughter. But would we actually do so?
I am 75 years old. My reaction time has slowed. It probably would take me entire minutes to process "What the hell is happening?" if I heard the gunfire and the screams. That means, "freeze," not "run right inside."
I am a nearly lifelong gun shooter — at targets and animals that do not shoot back. In early adulthood, the Army taught me how to shoot the Model 1911 .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun and the semiautomatic M-1 rifle.
But that 55-years-ago training has become a memory, not a retained skill. It does not change my mindset in 2018 from "run away from trouble" to "run toward trouble."
Police officers and members of military combat units have that "run toward trouble" mentality. They learn it and have it reinforced by day-in, day-out association with like-minded individuals.
People who run toward trouble do so because of near-constant training and respect, sometimes love, for the other members of their unit.
I share the "sick to my stomach" feeling expressed by Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel because armed deputy Scott Peterson "never went in" to the school for at least four minutes of the six-minute-long shooting spree by Nikolas Cruz that left 17 people dead.
Would I have charged into the school? I hope so. Even if I had been killed, I would have wanted to be remembered as someone who tried to save lives, not someone who just stood there.
But I think, sadly, that I might have frozen, if not with fear, then with panic and indecision.
Even trained people get frozen with panic and indecision. There is a world of difference between being taught to shoot a weapon and being able to run toward someone who is shooting it, let alone killing that shooter. That is why I am ambivalent about the idea of training teachers to shoot, then allowing them to carry weapons inside schools.
Schools are crowded, filled to the brim. Far more people are clustered inside any school than are huddled in any store, factory or office.
Imagine a shooter in a hallway, spraying bullets around.
Then imagine a history teacher drawing a weapon and moving into that hallway. Imagine a math teacher drawing a weapon and moving into the same hallway from a classroom across the hall.
Bang, bang, bang. Who dies? Not just the shooter. Perhaps not even the shooter.
Time Magazine said that from 1998-2006, New York police officers who fired at bad guys hit their targets 17 percent of the time during gunfights. Even when the suspect did not shoot back, the miss rate was about 70 percent. An FBI report from a few years back said, as I recall, that throughout the entire country, police who shot at bad guys hit targets about 25 percent of the time.
These are trained shooters.
Where do the other 75 percent of bullets go? Those bullets go into walls, trees, bushes, cars, trucks, fields, ponds... everywhere.
Inside crowded schools, there usually are dozens or hundreds of other people within shooting range, trying to flee or trying to hide.
In theory, I like the idea of "armed teachers" because, again in theory, I accept the judgment of National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre that, "To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun."
But in reality, "a good guy with a gun" is more likely to be killed and/or to kill other non-threatening victims than to take out a shooter, in my view.
I go back to the image of myself as that armed deputy outside that Florida school, probably hearing the gunfire and the screams.
I have decades of experience with firearms. But I have not actually trained for decades. I know that there is a "use it or lose it" mentality to many acquired skills. Teachers are already busy people. Are they going to train once a week? Once a month? Is training at a shooting range adequate to empower someone to hit and kill an active, aggressive shooter without hitting others?
Would I have killed the bad guy and saved the good people? Would you? Would armed teachers?
Denny Bonavita, a former editor and publisher at newspapers in western Pennsylvania, winters in Apalachicola. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org