In the wake of several school shootings in recent years, teachers have invented a device to protect themselves and their students.
Aug. 13, 2012 --
The shooting deaths of three people near Texas A&M University today, making this the third major act of gun violence in the United States within the past 30 days, is bound to reignite a debate about gun control. The country was still reeling from the deadly tragedy at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., which left 12 people dead, and another act of domestic terrorism at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, leaving seven dead including the shooter. Colorado, Wisconsin and Texas aren't the only states to have their gun laws come under scrutiny following a shooting tragedy. Other states with even more lax laws have also drawn fire.
The killing of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old high school student who was unarmed at the time, stirred controversy over the application of justice in the shooting. Florida's gun ownership laws came under scrutiny. George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old shooter and self-described neighborhood watch captain, had a concealed carry permit, easily obtained in the state. Florida also has laws in place the protect the use of firearms. A 2005 "Stand Your Ground" law allows the use of deadly force if there's the reasonable expectation of a threat, even if the supposed attacker is unarmed.
Following a shooting in Tuscon, Ariz. on Jan. 8, 2011 that left congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded and resulted in the deaths of six people, Arizona's gun laws, considered among the nation's most lenient, drew widespread media attention. The state of Arizona allows anyone over age 21 to not only own a firearm, but also conceal a handgun without needing a permit. In fact, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill in January 2010 repealing a law requiring concealed-carry permits, according to NPR. Twice already this year, Arizona state lawmakers have considered two bills loosening gun ownership restrictions. One bill brought before the Arizona Senate would have allowed gun owners to carry concealed weapons on university campuses, a measure that stalled because of the controversy that ensued from the idea of allowing guns in schools. A second bill drafted in the Arizona House would allow gun owners to carry in public buildings, and is "quietly moving toward passage," according to the Arizona Republic. This photo shows ammunition being sold at the Pima County gun show in 2011 one week after the shooting in Tuscon.
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Nearly five years ago, 32 people at Virginia Tech were killed when a mentally ill student went a on a shooting spree before turning the gun on himself. Virginia's laws are similar to restrictions imposed by other states on gun ownership. The state requires permits for concealed carry, which is subject to a review process. The state also has a 22-year-old law requiring criminal background checks on gun sales -- a law which the current governor, Bob McDonnell, says he's evaluating in a January interview with the Virginian Pilot. The state, however, does have what gun control advocates call a major loophole: private dealers may sell firearms at gun shows without a background check. Without a background check, according to gun control proponents, criminals have ready access to weapons at gun shows. In 2011, an American-born al-Qaeda spokesman even encouraged potential terrorists in a video statement to take advantage of similar loopholes in the United States. In this photo, mourners hold a vigil following the Virginia Tech massacre.
Mississippi not only has some of the most permissive gun laws of any state; it also has the second-highest number of firearm-related fatalities per 100,000 people. A new law passed in Mississippi in December 2011 allows residents to carry guns in public places, including "bars, courthouses and college campuses," according to a UPI report. Mississippi also has highest "export rates" of any state, that is the number of guns sold in Mississippi to criminals who use them in another, according to a study led by a coalition called Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Mississippi might have the second-highest rate of gun-related fatalities, but Alaska leads the list -- and also has even more lax gun laws than Mississippi. Nearly 21 people in 100,000 die as a result of a firearm in Alaska. Like Arizona, Alaska law allows for anyone over 21 to purchase a firearm. The state also permits concealed and open carry. There are some restrictions in Alaska, however. While Arizona is currently considering a law allowing guns in public buildings, carrying weapons in these areas is prohibited by Alaska laws. Private business owners also are allowed to use their discretion as to whether they allow firearms in their establishments.
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Like its neighbor Arizona, New Mexico's lax gun ownership laws make it a prime location for buying guns for the purpose of interstate arms trafficking. New Mexico doesn't require permits for purchase, possession or open carry. Concealed carry permits require the completion of a gun safety course. Weapons used by drug cartels in Mexico often originate in the United States due to the ease with which criminals can buy guns and smuggle them across the border, as reported by CNN. These firearms are usually purchased in border states, like New Mexico.
Montana has limited restrictions on gun ownership, requiring permits only for concealed carry. In 2009, Montana passed the Montana Firearms Freedom Act (PDF), a bill that challenged federal authority of the state to regulate guns made and sold in Montana. The move proved controversial, and the bill has been tied up in the court system.
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A group of small town teachers have a big idea called The Sleeve. It's a device that slips over the closer-arm of a door to prevent the door from being opened from the outside. The idea is to buy time for teachers and students during a school shooting.
Daniel Nietzel, President of Fighting Chance Solutions and middle-school teacher said he came up with the idea of The Sleeve after realizing the tactics they were taught during active-shooter drills weren't effective. He said the officer acting as the shooter was able to get into all the classrooms and "kill" everyone inside. The Sleeve is designed to be faster than tying a rope, cord, or belt around the closer-arm, which is what teachers are taught in his school district. "You're essentially tying the most important knot of your life," said Nietzel.
Nietzel's wife is also a teacher and he was worried about her not being able to secure all three of the doors in her classroom quickly enough to stop someone from entering. "It's in the back of the mind every time, every time we walk through those school doors, ya know, could this be the day," said Nietzel.
Tired of waiting for a better system, Nietzel and his team came up with a door-closer sleeve made of solid carbon steel that can withstand 550 foot-pounds of force. Since its debut in early June, the device has gained national and international attention. When there's an active shooter, seconds count, so The Sleeve is meant to be fast and easy. The device takes only a second to slip on.
The local Muscatine Community College bought The Sleeve for all of its classrooms. President of the college Bob Allbee said that although they don't ever expect a shooting to happen in their small town, he wants to be prepared.
"Hopefully we'll never use them, hopefully we'll just have to dust them every once in a while and they'll be on the wall," he explained. "But in case we need them, that's why they're there, again we're just trying to buy some time."
The Sleeve is painted 'Safety Red' much like fire alarms, or fire extinguishers. The idea is to help address concerns of teachers being locked out of their classrooms. Nietzel said the point of the color is to make sure students understand and associate the color with other safety devices. "When students think of this, see this, they think 'ok safety,' this is not to be messed with unless it's a life or death situation," said Nietzel. The Sleeve is small enough to be hidden in a drawer away from students, or can be displayed by the door.
The door closer-arms can vary so each sleeve is custom-made depending on measurements that must be taken before ordering. The Fighting Chance Solutions team is determined to keep production of The Sleeve in America and the devices are made in Muscatine, Iowa at Fabricators Plus.
Each Sleeve costs $65 and the company offers bulk order discounts. There are also $70 teacher gift certificates that include shipping. All the teacher has to send are measurements and they'll receive the Sleeve three to four weeks later.
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