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Too often, I receive the news that someone has been killed during a weapons confrontation (usually with a gun), where there has been a mass shooting in which a lot of people have been killed or were wounded. Less often, I have heard about those who committed suicide or were shot during an accident. During my first year as the chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department, I was called out more often for suicides than any other specific need, and I have been called out various times to minister to people mourning the death of a friend who died in an accident. It is true that guns do not kill people; people do, but they certainly make it easier to commit the act.

One of the things most feared by people today is the presence of an "active-shooter"-- that is, "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area with firearms" (Definition: FBI). Between 2000 and 2018, the FBI has reported that 277 active-shooter events killed 884 people and injured 1,544. Shootings have taken place in 44 states and Washington, D.C., in churches, workplaces and neighborhoods, and at all hours of the day. During 2018, deadly shootings occurred at a Parkland, Fla., high school, at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif. In total, there were 27 incidents during 2018 that left 85 people dead and 128 wounded.

According to the Wall Street Journal (April 13, 2019), the FBI has been keeping records of active-shooter events since 2000 and records 10 major events since the shootings in Columbine. Most of us can never forget the shootings in Wakefield, Mass., (2000); at Lockheed Martin (2003); Virginia Tech (2007); Fort Hood (2009); Tucson (2011); Sandy Hook and the Aurora, Colo., theater (2012); Charleston Church (2015); the Pulse Nightclub (2016); Las Vegas (2017) -- the deadliest shooting in the United States); and Parkland, Fla. (2018).

The FBI reports that most of the shootings took place in businesses, schools and workplaces (and, I might add, in churches), and that in over half of them, the shooter chose the location specifically to target at least one of the victims. Thus, if you know someone who is threatening you, it is important that you notify the proper authorities.

Obviously, the FBI also began trying to understand the nature of these shootings and how to avoid them in the future. Many people today have been trained in the procedures to follow if they are caught in an active-shooting situation: If you can, RUN away as fast as you can; if you can't run away, HIDE somewhere away from the shooter; and if neither of these is possible, FIGHT as hard as you can to save your life. Since active-shooter events normally occur unexpectedly in public places, it does little good to simply warn one another to always be in a safe place.

By examining the events carefully, the FBI has found that many of the shooters signaled impending violence before the attack. It appears that shooters rarely act on impulse, that they normally take a significant amount of time to plan these things. And, it also is rare that nobody saw the event coming. When someone displays troubling behavior, makes threats on social media and begins to espouse dangerous language, it is time to report the person to someone in law enforcement. During 2018, it is significant to note that citizens tried to end five of the active-shooting events and saved many lives.

In his book, "Assassination Generation" (2016), Lt. Col. Dave Grossman makes a very strong case that our society has been training people for a generation now on how to utilize military weapons and strategy to assist them in killing people. While these events are taught in video games, they quickly escalate into real-life situations when someone utilizes the techniques taught to kill enough people to win a particular game. Grossman argues that many of the killings of children originate out of this environment. His research is significant and his expertise is outstanding, and I might add that his books on warfare and killing are required reading at most of our military schools. He points out that, while these businesses earn billions of dollars annually teaching harmful material to our children, so far there has been no serious attempt to regulate them.

If you're like I am, you love your children, your friends and your workplace people like I do and don't want to see them killed or wounded with life-altering injuries. I can assure you after 25 years as a law enforcement chaplain that our law enforcement personnel cannot prevent these events from occurring by themselves. Personal safety involves all of us staying vigilant and watching out for one another.

• • •

Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Religion on 06/05/2019

Print Headline: Staying vigilant for personal safety

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