Active shooter drills cause more harm than good

Dylan Grosser, Columnist

The threat of mass shootings in America is something that looms over all of us constantly, but especially students. The tragedy of the numerous Columbine-esque shootings that have exploded in recent years has made us internally panic for our safety. We all want some way to take control of the situation.

In this panic is where the “active shooter drill” idea has come from. We are all familiar with how they work and how often they’re deployed. What most of us are most likely not familiar with, however, is the effectiveness of them, or lack thereof.

The active shooter lockdown drill is not substantiated by any existing evidence that shows it is the best way to survive a mass shooting. The reason for this primarily comes from how school shootings are difficult to study empirically by their very nature.

These acts of violence are so random and senseless that it makes predicting or understanding them virtually impossible. It’s unfortunate but true to say that we really don’t know much about why school shootings happen, and how to protect ourselves during one.

The way lockdowns work are known to be flawed, and some of us were told that right out of the gate by teachers or law enforcement. Your safety cannot be guaranteed in any school shooting situation, whether you run, hide or fight.

Nevertheless, we still deploy these drills, sometimes using methods in order to dramatize and/or intensify the drill, in order to make it more “realistic.” But there is nothing healthy about any of this. Not only it is impossible to fully “prepare” someone for a shooting, doing so can unnecessarily traumatize those participating.

While it’s irrefutable that mass shootings are more likely to occur in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world, an editorial in the Washington Post pointed to the extreme rarity that kids are likely to experience them in the first place. So why are we using unsubstantiated methods to scare kids for something that most likely won’t even happen to them?

The fact is we want to believe there is something we can do to protect ourselves, to gain control. And while there is a way, we find our leaders are more focused on overestimating the threshold for trauma a child has in order to avoid discussing a larger, more controversial solution.

Right now our current system is fixated on trying to find out how we can stop or mitigate the damages of these shootings as they’re happening, but we should be more preoccupied with preventing them in the first place.

Implementing national common sense gun laws is the only way to truly protect our youth. A combination of stricter background checks, longer waiting periods, expanding gun-free zones, increasing the age of buying firearms to 21 and banning assault weapons similar to the AR-15 style rifle will significantly reduce the threat of school shootings and protect kids better than lockdowns.

School shootings are a frightening reality, and I don’t suggest coddling children entirely from that issue, but placing the burden on them for their own safety is as irresponsible as it is uninformed. Our political leaders need to take charge and enact these gun laws to protect our youth, not leave them to fend for themselves.

As previous K-12 students, we are all familiar with the very real threat of a shooting, which is why it’s important for us to be politically active for the sake of our younger peers and fight for their right to go to school without being killed.