The NRA put forth the idea of putting officers in schools - an idea that President Clinton proposed as a response to Columbine. People from all sides have come out both for and against this plan. Many people ask if having an officer in schools can really protect our children. Can it?
We come to the story of yet another "good guy with a gun" that seems to be lost in the conversation. In this case it's Sullivan County School Resource Office Carolyn Gudger. Carolyn was assigned to Sullivan Central High School in Blountville, Tennesee back in 2010.
On Monday, August 30th of that year 62-year-old Vietnam veteran Thomas Richard Cowan lost it. Cowan loaded his two handguns with a total of 13 rounds, chained his beloved German Sheperd to the fence and drove from the eight miles from his home to Sullivan Central High School.
Cowan was described as an eccentric man with a history of criminal and sometimes violent behavior. There is no good reason why he picked Sullivan Central High School that day. The only known connection is that his brother is a janitor there.
Shortly after 9a.m., as second period was starting, Cowan arrived on the scene and parked in a handicapped space. Cowan went to the front door and was standing in the waiting area between two sets of doors the school had for security - all people had to be buzzed in.
Junior Ashley Thacker walked to the front door and Cowan told her to go in ahead of him. At that moment the school principal, Melanie Riden walked out of the doors accompanied by Carolyn Grudger. Cowan drew his .380 caliber handgun and pointed the gun at Riden's head.
Gudger, in her first act of a heroic afternoon, drew her gun and put her body between Riden and the gunman.
Gudger, with her gun on Cowan and his gun still on her, began slowly moving back while still shielding Riden. The two repeatedly demanded they each drop their weapons with Cowan even trying to grab Gudgers gun at one point.
"Code Red, Lockdown" blared over the school intercoms into every classroom at roughly the same time as Sullivan County police dispatch sent out the message:
Man with a gun at Central High School
Cower repeatedly said he only wanted one thing... to pull the fire alarms. What happens when fire alarms go off? Everyone leaves their classroom and enters the hallway. What more could a gunman want?
While it seemed like a lifetime to all involved, less than three minutes after Cowan drew his weapon on Principal Riden Deputies Sam Matney and Steve Williams were on the scene.
As Gudger and Cowan entered a science area behind the cafeteria, the other two officers converged. The presence of the other officers shook Cowan and he began moving his gun from one officer to another. Despite all three officers demanding Cowan put down his gun, he refused.
The deputies opened fire, striking Cowan multiple times and mortally wounding him.
I get that officers in schools is a hot topic for debate - but one thing is, and always has been true, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
Putting officers in the school may not be the end all be all answer to these situations, but wouldn't you rather have someone on scene to immediately confront just such an attack?
I'll let Camry Collins, a then 17-year-old student at Central High School tell you her thoughts:
"Gudger is the bomb-diggity. She goes out of her way to protect us."
For more stories of everyday heroes, check out the December Defensive Gun Use Report