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Shooting underscores threat to 'soft' targets

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WASHINGTON – The tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has raised once again the specter that terrorist cells and lone wolves will look to strike “soft” targets such as schools and shopping malls regardless of security protocols, counter-terrorism experts say in a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

At Sandy Hook Elementary, 26 people were killed, including 20 schoolchildren aged 6 and 7, by a lone 20-year-old assailant.

Soft targets are far easier to attack than a “hard” target that may be under heavy guard. As a consequence, would-be perpetrators will go where it will be easier to make their violent statement for maximum effect, experts say.

In addition to schools and shopping malls, other soft targets include high-profile businesses, hotels, casinos, transportation facilities, airports and venues where there may be large audiences, such as theaters.

John Farnam, a nationally renowned firearms instructor, pointed out in an email that more gun control isn’t the answer to the problem, even though gun-control advocates will be looking for increased restrictions on gun ownership and to “punish everyone who didn’t commit a crime.”

He said the real issue is the “faulty, but universal, policy of ‘lock-downs'” and “gun-free zones.”

Farnam runs a firearms school called Defense Training International, or DTI. He teaches law enforcement nationwide, has taught specialized firearms courses at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia and is a deputy sheriff in Colorado.

He said that the debate over more gun control will bury the real issues.

“As a standard response to a security emergency, locking children or any group into classrooms and other small areas is tantamount to herding them into coffins,” as displayed in the Connecticut school shooting, he said.

“My personal response to any ‘lock-down’ command is to vacate the area immediately, as fast as I can, any way I can, and I don’t care who likes it. ‘Lock-downs’ represent a fatally flawed convention. Israelis, experts on the subject, have known this for years.

“Gun-free schools are better entitled ‘criminal-empowerment zones,'” Farnam said.

“Nothing short of armed teachers and other school officials will adequately protect children in schools,” he said. “There aren’t enough police to go around, and disarming every good and honest citizen in the country won’t keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals, as we daily see in Mexico and most of the Mid-East.

“Until teachers are armed and trained, no school will be safe,” he added. “Someone has to be continually on the spot (to be) able, ready, willing and in a position to protect these children.”

Reports say that the Sandy Hook principal, Dawn Hochsprung, and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, confronted the shooter and tried to stop him before both were shot dead.

Just as schools represent target-rich opportunities, the nation’s busy shopping malls also are a prime “soft” target. The perpetrators may not just be “lone wolves” but organized terrorist groups.

Doug Hagmann of the Northeast Intelligence Network has said that al-Qaida is seeking to diversify target selection and is looking to attack American malls. He added that the Joint Terrorism Task Force has stated that terror networks operating in the U.S. believe malls are a legitimate terrorist target.

J.R. Dunn, editor of American Thinker, went so far as to say shopping malls may be the new targets of choice for terrorists.

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