By the Gatepost Editorial Board
Last week, federal legislators discussed the proposed Active Shooter Alert Act of 2022.
The Act’s goal would be to develop “mass alert systems ... to notify local residents, motorists, travelers, and others in the vicinity when there is an active shooter,” according to the U.S. Congress website.
Why wasn’t a bill like this proposed sooner?
An active shooter is defined in the bill as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people with a firearm in a populated area who poses an active, imminent threat to people in that populated area.”
Between 2000 and 2020, there was a 1,200% increase in active shooter situations in the United States, according to ABC News.
Other bills to improve firearm safety have failed to garner enough votes in Congress because of Republican opposition to gun control laws. The Active Shooter Alert Act stands a higher chance of passing in Congress because the 2nd Amendment and gun ownership rights are not called into question.
An active shooter alert system recognizes our country’s lack of organized response oversight at the national level.
The technology to create a national active shooter alert system is already in place.
Much like the Amber Alert system, which sends out notifications when children are abducted, the proposed system would allow law enforcement personnel to send out messages via text, phone calls, and television and radio broadcasts. People can like the Amber Alert Facebook page or follow its Twitter account to receive local alerts as well.
While details have not yet been determined, we believe the active shooter alert system should include an opt-in subscription for text, phone, and email alerts. Those who opt in could add phone numbers and email addresses to be contacted in the event of an emergency.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), one of the representatives who proposed the bill, is likely familiar with the benefits of Rhode Island’s codeRED system put in place around 2016 by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, according to the City of Providence website.
This statewide emergency notification system alerts residents who have opted into the program through telephone, cell phone, text message, email, and social media when time-sensitive emergencies occur.
A number of government agencies, including the National Weather Service, already broadcast
emergency messages through an organized system called SAME. Local municipalities send out automated phone calls when there are weather delays for schools or trash pickup.
Framingham State even has its own alert system, which was tested last month and announced closings during the recent snowstorms.
While the technology to create an active shooter alert system is already available, what’s missing is an organization or agency to oversee its protocols and implementation.
The bill states the system would be coordinated by the U.S. Department of Justice, which would set “best practices” and activation criteria for local law enforcement personnel to follow. This arrangement is the same as the one for the Amber Alert system.
One danger of creating a system like the one proposed is that people might panic when they receive messages about active shooters.
However, in active-shooter situations, people will panic whether they know two minutes after it begins or two hours later. A timely message allows people to take action sooner to protect their lives in situations where seconds matter.
Like a tornado, active shooters may move quickly and unpredictably. It’s better for people to know sooner rather than later so they can lock their doors, find a safe place to hide, or turn around if they are driving.
Last week, an active shooter targeted campus police officers at Bridgewater College in Virginia. The college issued a shelter-in-place warning to protect its community.
While the students at Bridgewater benefitted from an immediate lockdown, people outside educational institutions don’t receive real-time alerts when shooters are detected. A notification system would provide the same sort of protection.
The Active Shooter Alert Act is a good idea.
All that’s required to implement it are some meetings in the Department of Justice to set up guidelines. The actual broadcasts by local law enforcement can operate using preexisting channels of communication.
We hope the bill makes it to the floor in Congress in May and is voted on favorably.
The bill proposes a $2 million budget for creating the alert system for Fiscal Year 2023. We think spending this small portion of our country’s budget could save lives. You can’t put a price on the lives of all the shooting victims in our country.
Everybody wins from the Active Shooter Alert Act.
There are so many common-sense solutions to improve gun safety. In the past, The Gatepost has advocated for federal legislation to enforce background checks, extreme risk law, and mandatory education for gun owners.
The Active Shooter Alert Act, which stands the best chance of passing in this partisan moment, is the bare minimum needed to address the gun violence crisis in our country. Without it, our safety is in jeopardy.
Thankfully, in the meantime, we have access to an alert system of our own.
We recommend every FSU student sign up for FSU Alert to ensure their safety on campus.
Directions for students to sign up for FSU Alert:
Log in to my.framingham.edu
Click on “Login to FSU Alert here”
Enter username and password
Add phone numbers and email addresses