As families across the United States start a new school year, thoughts of when the next school shooting will occur mar the usual optimistic anticipation.
Many conversations center around prevention, gun laws and protection. What will it take to make sure another shooting, like the ones at Highlands Ranch STEM or Stoneman Douglas High School, never happens again?
While legislators and the voting public debate the issue, a Navy SEAL offers a solution that may mitigate loss of life and number of injured: specially trained dogs.
When Joshua Morten returned home from five tours overseas, his thoughts turned from the violence he witnessed on the battleground to what he heard was happening in schools. So he decided to do something about it; he’s using his skills at K-9 handling to train dogs to run after attackers and take them down.
Morton told NBC News, “I did not expect to see what I saw overseas, to see it in schools. But, unfortunately, it’s happening. I’ve been trying to find this solution for a very long time.”
After training dogs to search for drugs and explosives using what he calls the Morton Method, he set about teaching them to find shooters.
The process starts with finding trainable dogs that can run toward the danger while avoiding running children. He uses a partner who fires blank rounds from a semi-automatic rifle. Then, Morton guides the dog towards the noise.
This training is critical because he doesn’t want the dogs loose in a dangerous situation trying to locate the intruder at random. Instead, the dogs use all their senses to find the target.
Morton uses his friends to act as fleeing students and tries to create the scenario in as realistic manner as possible. The dog’s only objective is to aggressively attack and take down the shooter.
After the exercises are over and the protective padding comes off the “shooter,” it’s all smiles and wagging. Nothing personal.
“They’re trained to deal with that specific situation,” Morton says.
Those who have seen one of Morton’s dogs in action are impressed with the dog’s ability and focus. The dogs are clearly capable of bringing down the shooter in a matter of seconds.
Others strongly disapprove of Morton’s solution and took to Twitter with their concerns.
Others wondered if the solution was practical given that finding and training enough dogs would be difficult and expensive.
Then, there is the question of ethics. Is it right to send a dog into a shooting scenario where it runs the real and likely risk of getting injured or killed?
But the public’s skepticism does not seem to bother Morton. He, along with some of the school administrators he’s worked with, are convinced these dogs can help. He’s even breeding them so he can work with them as soon as they are old enough. Without fear and with specialized, formal training, Morton’s dogs will be at the ready the next time a former student or enraged stranger decides to take out their frustrations on our children.
Terrifyingly, they’ll be put to work soon.