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In the Land of Mass Shootings, Safety Industry Thrives

With each new mass shooting, more schools and businesses, even in parts of the country that support stricter gun control, are taking steps to bolster the security of their buildings and train their staff. But the products sold by a multibillion-dollar security industry that now exists to "harden" schools and businesses are largely unproven, the New York Times reports. Despite the lack of solid evidence of effectiveness, the industry grows as the threat of violence grows and as public policy lags in offering other solutions. Schools in particular are vulnerable to the sales pitch for products such as automatically locking doors, bullet-resistant tables, Kevlar backpacks, artificial intelligence that detects guns and countless types of training exercises, like breathing techniques to avoid panic during an attack or strategies for how to use a pencil to pierce a shooter’s eyes. “This is an entire industry that capitalizes on school shootings; however, these companies have very little evidence that what they are selling works,” said Odis Johnson, the executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools and a Bloomberg distinguished professor at the university.

Some business owners in the active-shooter-defense industry say they are not just selling products but preparing people to defend themselves. One of them is Ken Alexandrow, a former police officer in Tennessee who runs Agape Tactical, a company that has taught nurses, teachers and church staff techniques for defending against a shooter. His basic sessions cost $1,000. “We are trying to change the way people live in society,” Alexandrow said over breakfast while visiting New York to discuss his classes with a company that provides unarmed security guards for businesses. “We want to make people responsible for themselves and stop acquiescing security to someone else.” He said that many training companies focused on teaching people how to run or hide from a shooter, but that meeting violence with violence was also effective. “Fighting works,” he said. In Utah, where teachers can obtain permits to carry concealed weapons in schools, the Utah County sheriff’s office trains school personnel how to safely handle firearms, techniques to de-escalate a conflict and how to shoot at an attacker rampaging through a school. Sgt. Spencer Cannon, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said he was surprised at how many of the attendees — a mix of teachers, speech pathologists and janitors — did not own a gun. “We expected to have a lot people who are all about guns,” Sergeant Cannon said. “But we have people who have never touched a firearm.” As part of the course, the teachers and other school personnel are taken to a shooting range, where “they get a feel for what they are like,” he said.


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