Do Armed Guards Stop Mass Shootings? Evidence is Slim

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The mass shooting at a California country-music bar  that left 12 dead Wednesday has became a grim test case in a persistent debate about how places such as schools, nightclubs and houses of worship should steel themselves against shooters and how police should respond. The gunman began his rampage by shooting an unarmed security guard outside the bar. The massacre, and others like it in recent months, show how difficult devising an effective strategy to head off an attack can be and the high cost it can exact on those on the front lines, reports the Washington Post. The debate has gained urgency as President Trump and others say armed security guards could have prevented mass shootings; Trump supports arming teachers.

More police departments are aggressively confronting active shooters as incidents unfold. Both strategies have pitfalls. An armed security guard and armed school resource officer were ineffective at stopping the Pulse nightclub and Parkland High School mass shootings in Florida, and experts say there is little evidence that armed security guards curtail mass shootings. “A very high percentage of these attackers are suicidal, so sometimes when they are shot and killed, that’s their desired outcome,” said criminologist Adam Lankford of the University of Alabama. “The idea that he is going to be scared away by an armed security guard just doesn’t compute.” Jaclyn Schildkraut of the State University of New York at Oswego said taking down a shooter with a firearm is more difficult than many realize. A RAND Center of Quality Policing study found New York City police officers hit their target in gunfights just 18 percent of the time.

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