Can we learn from Israel how to stop mass shootings?

There was a recent article in the Washington Post about gun violence in the United States as compared to Israel. Particularly, while the U.S. has suffered from a staggering number of recent school shootings, the same is virtually unheard of in Israel, a country where guns are “such a common sight,” as the article suggests. Some reasons as to why mass shootings are so rare in countries like Israel include tactics such as making private gun ownership very restrictive and only having one entrance staffed by an armed guard at most schools and institutions.

In response to these unthinkable tragedies on school campuses, there has been a call for increased security measures to “harden” susceptible locations such as schools.  We take similar measures in many houses of worship, cultural organizations, recreational facilities, courthouses, and many government installations, and now, after so many needless tragedies, we are finally talking about taking similar measures in our schools. Necessary precautions include increased communication and awareness, lockdown drills, surveillance, added police presence, controlled access points, and security guard booths.

Many schools in the U.S. already adopt Israel’s methods. Karen Adler, founder of Gan Aviv, Nursery School and Day Care in Bergenfield, NJ, said, “I started my own daycare because I was looking for a safe Jewish environment for my own child.  From my Israeli upbringing, I’m always aware of the outside world and the threats that they may bring. In my school, we have cameras in all classrooms and over the entrance of the school.  We only use one entrance, and in order to enter the school and get through the second security door, we use an access control feature. Our staff is all clearly identified with branded clothing, and we have solid relationships with the emergency services departments in town.  We also have emergency plans in place that include evacuation procedures.”

Different countries have tried their approaches, including banning types of guns altogether. For instance, Germany, Britain, and Australia ban automatic guns. Additionally, each has also taken action in response to mass shootings in the past by passing new laws and regulations. After the mass shooting in 1996 where a gunman with a semiautomatic rifle shot and killed 35 people at several locations in and around Port Arthur, Australia banned certain semiautomatic weapons and even enacted a buyback system to entice people to voluntarily surrender their weapons, which accumulated 700,000 firearms. Australia hasn’t had a “mass” shooting in 22 years.

In the U.S., more than 40 states now require schools to provide advanced safety training to staff and students. The number of educational facilities with School Resource Officers grew from just 13% of schools in 1994 to 50% a decade later. SRO’s serve as a show of force and visible deterrent to potential villains. Requiring all visitors to pass through limited entrances with security booths provides a central access point and can help prevent, or at least offer advance notice of, unauthorized visitors, which is why apparatuses such as the security booths exist. Devices and methods like these help make sure every single school in America is protected.

During his career as a New York Paramedic, Abraham Taub, CEO and co-founder of a company called Guardian Booth, has seen and treated shooting victims, and because of that, and what we have witnessed in this country recently, he is setting up the Guardian Booth School Safety Fund, with an initial commitment of $30,000, to make guard stations and security enclosures available to schools of all types at a deeply discounted rate. The company is offering a free and discounted security booth rentals to schools and universities, and are donating four booths to different schools around the country. Taub and his partner Abe Breuer have also set up a GoFundMe page so the public can help fund additional guard booths for schools around the country.

The Guardian Booth is a prefabricated structure customized to meet the needs of any venue in need of security. They are durable, bulletproof, weatherproof, ventilated, and fully customizable and even portable. For personnel, they come with built-in desks and provide 360-degree visibility. The idea behind using such a booth is twofold: First, the simple act of having a visible guard in front of a school may keep potential problems away. Second, the guards inside are protected from an initial attack and are trained and ready to intercept an active shooter.

“We founded the company and designed our guard stations initially to service the construction industry in NYC, but it quickly became apparent that there is a need for security booths to keep our kids safe nationwide,” Taub said. “I have seen and treated numerous children who were the victims of violence in schools. As a parent of three, I find it frightening that our schools are apparently no longer considered safe havens for students and teachers alike.”

Elie Y. Katz, Deputy Mayor of the New Jersey town, Teaneck, said, “Teaneck has been proactive in our schools and houses of worship, where we do weekly security checks and conduct drills. We have armed police officers in most of our schools, and many of our houses of worship have received Homeland Security grants for cameras and better security systems. Teaneck remains vigilant as we constantly improve and practice our safety protocols to protect our residents. A security booth will be another tool for Teaneck, as protection and improved protocols are among our top priorities.”

About the Author
Formerly from Israel, now in Delaware, I have owned, run and worked with food, technology and politics, beginning with the MFA and several Knesset members.
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