Meet the Safety Instructors Teaching Kids to Fight Back Against School Shooters

‘Full Frontal’ host Samantha Bee wonders whether advising a child to confront an attacker with office supplies is a good idea.
Mar 8, 2016·
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Depending on where you went to school, you likely participated in tornado drills, earthquake drills, or at least fire drills. But along with getting students ready for environmental disasters, schools across the country are now preparing them for a more sinister scenario: facing an active shooter.

On Monday night’s episode of Full Frontal, host Samantha Bee investigates some of the controversial tactics taught to children in an attempt to subdue a gunman.

Alon Stivi, founder of Attack Countermeasures Training, a company that educates people on how to survive violent situations, warns children to “fight back. Just don’t lie down and die” in his training videos. He advises middle and high school students to distract a shooter by throwing common classroom objects—such as books and scissors—at the attacker. When Bee suggests using a pen to write a letter to Congress asking for comprehensive gun law reforms, Stivi explains that the writing utensil is more useful when used to stab an attacker in the eye or temple.

These counterattack training sessions aren’t limited to teenagers. The children’s book I’m Not Scared...I’m Prepared!, written by Julia Cook, uses colorful illustrations to teach preschoolers how to confront a shooter, once again by pelting him or her with school supplies.

Since 2013, there have been more than 170 school shootings in America, according to advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. Supporters of defensive measures point to the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech as evidence that a “hide and freeze” response can be dangerous. In that instance, students who jumped out of windows or barricaded classrooms survived, whereas more than a dozen students who hid in classrooms were killed.

But many parents and educators draw the line at attacking a gun-wielding assailant, noting that children attempting to tackle a shooter become easy targets. Others argue that fighting-back techniques normalize violence and fail to address the root cause of mass shootings.

“Why are we accepting this as the new normal when most of these states haven’t passed the most basic gun laws, like universal background checks?” Bee asks.

Of the eight states in the U.S. that require schools to conduct mandatory shooting drills, six—Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee—do not require all gun dealers to conduct background checks on those looking to purchase firearms. More than 80 percent of gun owners support mandatory background checks, according to a 2015 poll from the Center for American Progress.

Bee thinks lawmakers’ reluctance to pass widely supported gun legislation stems from fears that they’ll face sanction from the National Rifle Association, which opposes expanding background checks on the grounds that they will not stop potential criminals from buying guns on the black market. To ease the minds of conservative lawmakers, Bee enlists a group of nine-year-olds to act out a play in which the kids suggest a few tools politicians can use to stand up to the NRA.