Sandy Hook Remembered


Sandy Hook RememberedToday we commemorate the one-year anniversary of Sandy Hook. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a game changer in how law enforcement addresses an Active Shooter Incident (ASI). Sandy Hook was the first ASI implemented against elementary school students in this county.

Each ASI is a tragedy and must be remembered. One life lost or one person injured by an Active Shooter (AS) is one person too many! Sandy Hook stands alone because the thought of a 20-year-old male slaying 20 first graders is gut wrenching, as are the deaths of 6 staff members who died in the defense of these children. Each was an obstacle for Adam Lanza. How many lives did these heroes save?

The sadness felt a year ago in Newtown remains today. Instead of focusing on the horror of that day, Newtown authorities are asking Americans to honor the fallen by doing acts of kindness to offset last year’s cruelty.

Since Sandy Hook, a game changer, the FBI is now providing threat assessment and management services to help academic, mental health, business, community, law enforcement, and government entities recognize and deter a potential AS before he implements his attack. Stopping the AS before he begins is the primary role of law enforcement.

Not all ASIs can be stopped. This is why the first responder remains critical.  When a “shots fired” call is received by law enforcement, the response will be immediate. An AS will often commit suicide upon the arrival of the police. This occurred last year at Sandy Hook.

The first Newtown police officer arrived at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in less than 4 minutes. Adam Lanza committed suicide within one minute of the police’s arrival. The action taken by Lanza suggests that Newtown police officers stopped the killing by making their presence known.

On December 17, Vice President Joe Biden will meet with the Newtown families at the White House. Biden will announce the release of $100 million to increase access to quality mental health services. This is also a game changer. The release of these funds is a changeover, adopting a proactive approach rather than solely relying on police response.  This will take time to coordinate.  Law enforcement must continue to be proactive in preventing an ASI yet also remain ready to respond to one.

Another game changer is the controversial topic of gun control. The fact that firearms used by an AS are either legally owned by the shooter or acquired from family members who legally own them is practically ignored by 2nd Amendment advocates. I support the 2nd Amendment. I believe that those who are qualified have a right to bear arms pursuant to the Constitution.

However, the right to bear arms must not infringe on my safety or the safety of others. Adam Lanza used his mother’s legally owned firearms which he acquired while she was asleep. Lanza first shot his mother. This weapon was left at the scene at home.

Lanza drove to Sandy Hook and shot his way into the school with a second rifle, killing the students and staff. Then he took his own life with a 9 mm firearm. Three legally owned firearms were used last year for 3 different illegal purposes.

Approximately 1,500 state gun bills have been introduced over the last year. A total of 178 bills are awaiting final approval and 109 are now law. Surprisingly, 70 bills have loosened gun laws while only 39 have tightened them.  Almost every state has enacted a least one new gun law. Nearly two-thirds of the new laws ease restrictions and expand gun owners’ rights.

New York was the first state to pass gun-control measures significantly expanding an assault weapons ban in response to Sandy Hook. Connecticut soon followed.

In Colorado, Democratic State Senators John Morse and Angela Giron who voted for increased gun control measures were recalled from office. A third Democrat, Sen. Evie Hudak, resigned when a recall began. This situation brings to light how 2nd Amendment rights activists feel threatened by gun control legislation. I find this situation perplexing.

Colorado has experienced 3 ASI’s. The first occurred at Columbine High School when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 13 people and themselves. The second was at the Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70 others.

A third incident occurred just yesterday. A student opened fire inside Arapahoe High School in Centennial with the intention of confronting a teacher. At least two people were injured before the shooter turned the gun on himself. No state is more duty bound than Colorado to seek middle ground to strengthen gun laws to protect citizens without interfering with the 2nd Amendment.

Newtown Connecticut is taking the high road in suggesting random acts of kindness to commemorate this day.  WFSB TV 3 in Hartford and other media outlets are also showing class in announcing that they will not enter the town of Newtown in their reporting of the one year anniversary to honor the dead and support those who still mourn.  Let us all follow their good example to set aside our political differences and work together to end the menace of the AS upon this country.

Jim Gaffney, MPA is Law Enforcement Today’s risk management /police administration contributor. He has served with a metro-New York police department for over 25 years in varying capacities, culminating with Executive Officer and PIO. He is a member of ILEETA, IACP, IACSP, and FBI – LEEDA. Jim is a Certified Force Science Analyst. He mentors law enforcement’s next generation as an adjunct criminal justice professor in the New York City area. Jim brings the street into the classroom to prepare students today for their roles as police officers tomorrow.  He is CEO of Bright Line Consulting and can be reached via


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