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FAIRBURN: Preventing the next Parkland: Nearly every school attack has been preceded by many warning signs

February 21, 2018

Preventing the next Parkland

by Richard Fairburn
Originally posted at PoliceOne.com.  Reprinted with permission.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has now joined the list of schools forever linked to school attack massacres. Sadly, this school shooting in Florida was COMPLETELY PREVENTABLE!

The police response to such events must be better, both left and right of “bang” when the first shot is fired. In the book “Left of Bang” by Jason A. Riley and Patrick Van Horne, we learn how the U.S. Marines have trained to better prepare their pre-attack awareness.


Media pundits and politicians have been on TV non-stop since the Parkland shooting, crying that we need to figure out how to stop such events. Hell, we already know how to stop them. The evidence for my argument comes from the hundreds (maybe thousands) of student-planned attacks that have been prevented by local law enforcement agencies.

Nearly every school attack has been preceded by many warning signs.

PoliceOne.com contributor Dan Marcou’s list of 5 phases leading up to these attacks defines the process these shooters follow left of bang. One notable exception to this was the Sandy Hook Elementary School attack. The killer at Sandy Hook was possibly the most disturbed individual we’ve seen so far where his pre-event planning wasn’t discovered until the follow-up investigation.

The recent event in Parkland was completely preventable. So many people knew this teenager posed a threat that two different tips were called in to the FBI.

The list of examples where the FBI has failed to connect the dots in both school and terrorist active shooter threats is long. I am not an FBI detractor, I have friends there and no organization is better at large-scale, complex investigations. But few FBI agents come from a local police background. They aren’t cops, don’t think like street cops and are not conditioned to do things in a hurry. Slow, thorough and deliberate describes FBI investigations. I believe that had those two tips been called into a local police or sheriff’s agency, the massacre in Parkland would have been prevented.

Rather than figuring out how to stop such events, we simply need to collect and analyze the hundreds of events U.S. police agencies have already prevented. That analysis will identify the investigative and intervention techniques common to the many success stories. It will give us a checklist of preventative actions and possibly identify specific changes that will (can) enhance the steps police can take. It will also identify any additional authority police agencies can be granted via legislation to further their effectiveness in preventing school shootings. 

Some of the stopped events allow criminal charges, putting the planners in custody. Others are interrupted so early that agencies must utilize "emergency detention" authority, where the mental health system often finds the perpetrators not to be a significant threat and they are released. This aspect of the mental health system may be a huge beneficiary of our prevented-incident analysis, by getting laws passed which give the police more authority. After all, we see these incipient killers at their worst, when they cannot maintain their "mask" of normalcy. By the time mental health professionals get them, they have calmed down enough to again seem normal.


After the Sandy Hook shooting, the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”

Various media and liberal politicians predictably condemned and ridiculed the statement. Police officers know the statement was exactly on target, if you’ll pardon the pun.

While most communities have School Resource Officers (SRO) in their schools, the positions are not adequately staffed, although their presence has helped prevent many incidents.

A couple of incidents have been minimized by SROs, right of Bang, but there are simply too few SROs for them to be reliable fight stoppers.

In the 20-officer agency I lead (city population just under 15,000), we have one SRO for the entire school district, who moves between all the schools throughout the day. With a uniquely marked patrol car, the students know when the SRO is in their school. Neither my budget, nor that of the school district, can afford more SROs.

After the Newtown shooting, I posted an article on PoliceOne.com suggesting a way to quickly put more good guys with guns in our schools. This plan could provide hundreds of thousands of volunteer “Minutemen” as armed protectors near every unsecured entrance at every school. I include armed and trained school personnel in my plan to bolster the defense even further.

We already know how to stop most of these massacres before they occur (left of Bang). My proposal provides a quick and inexpensive plan to provide many, many good guys with guns to serve as sheepdogs for the ones we can’t prevent (right of Bang).

This is my two cents on how to reply to the public’s righteous demand for law enforcement to “Do something!” Add your thoughts to the discussion below.


Dick Fairburn has more than 40 years of law enforcement experience in both Illinois and Wyoming, working patrol, investigations and administrative assignments. Dick also served as the Section Chief of a major academy's Firearms Training Unit and Critical Incident training program. He has a B.S. in Law Enforcement Administration from Western Illinois University and was the Valedictorian of his recruit class at the Illinois State Police Academy. He has published more than 300 feature articles and two books: Police Rifles and Building a Better Gunfighter. Dick is currently serving as the Public Safety Director in a Central Illinois community, overseeing the police and fire departments, as well as the 911 center.

6 Responses to FAIRBURN: Preventing the next Parkland: Nearly every school attack has been preceded by many warning signs

  1. Ted on February 21, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    What legal grounds would allow law enforcement have to take away his guns prior to his act?

    He was a legal gun owner. 

    Would GSL support taking away his guns prior to the act?

    Would GSL back mental competency exams prior to owning a gun?

    • GSL 1589 on February 21, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      The grounds to confiscation of perps firearms would depend on his declaration of doing harm (thrrough "social media", written plans, actions or threats, etc.). Even if lawful gun owner makes threats it should be a red flag as to his intentions, right? At least enough to be investigated, and the current crop of school shooters seem to telegraph intentions ahead of actions.

  2. jboch on February 21, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    What legal grounds would allow law enforcement have to take away his guns prior to his act?


    Clearly articulated threats against others.  Or even ambiguously articulated threats with other supporting facts that would lead a reasonable and prudent person to believe the individual might pose a danger to himself or others.  Basically what the standard currently is.


    He was a legal gun owner. 

    Would GSL support taking away his guns prior to the act?

    If by "he" you're referring to this loser in Florida, he would not have had a FOID card given his history.


    Would GSL back mental competency exams prior to owning a gun?

    No more than we do so for those voting, going to church, reading a book or having children.

  3. l .g. smith on March 2, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    We sense that this is all about an attack against all gun organizations with the NRA as the kingping the democrats & liberals want pulverized and demolished as they have been trying to do for decades…………with the Hillary Clintoon loss of gaing the election that Trump won, has proven to show the hatred the democatic party has for the countries real americans !          STAND STRONG WITH THE NRA AND ALL YOUR RIFLES ORGANIZATIONS, ETC. AS THE WAR HAS BEEN DECLARED ………… VOTE ALL DEMOCRATS OUT OF OFFICE !

  4. old buzzard on March 3, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    It is a fact that throughout history different factions of government have staged false flags to further their agendas, as such the dismantling of the 2nd Amendment and deceiving We The People. At this Parkland incident and others many eye witnesses that have mostly been ignored by the mainstream media need to be given much credit and their claims be investigated. It's time to wake up, stand up, and have this conversation within your communities.

  5. Jackie on March 15, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    sssssoooo. Then are we suggesting a nationwide. FOID   Card.  ???