Featured Story

Featured Letter: Proposed firearms facility to provide benefit to law enforcement

Apparently I have done a terrible job of explaining the “training” component of the Berlin/Niosi Firearms Training Academy.

In the intense focus on a prospective location, the value to local law enforcement agencies may have been under-discussed.

In addition to a custom configurable live fire range, the facility will house one, possibly two, VirTra virtual reality simulators. State-of-the-art 360-degree surround immersive platforms where two officers enter a scenario testing their situational awareness, response times, judgment and accuracy. Technology so sophisticated as to include feeling return fire through an over-the-uniform vest.

A well proven training tool, usually accessible to large departments and agencies, my goal is to make it available to all East End departments.

Importantly, while there is a VirTra library of off-the-shelf scenarios, e.g.: approaching cars, belligerent arrests, cover fire, etc., the best feature, in my opinion, is the ability to create a virtual training scenario representing our actual school buildings. Digital recreations will enable local law enforcement and medical personnel to train in a virtual environment exactly replicating the buildings they may have to respond to. [School filming is only with Police Chief David Hegermiller’s permission and school scenario ‘discs’ stay in police possession.]

If live law enforcement training is presently conducted on our campuses, an article posted on Microsoft’s MSN website analyzing active shooter drills done in schools may be of interest. In the article, numerous trauma experts argue “the drills may harm students more than help.”

Sandy Hook Promise, founded by parents who lost children in 2012, warns against “live-action simulations of fatal shootings” and “a dangerous trend which makes simulations conducted in schools more traumatizing than helpful.”

The gun control advocacy group Everytown studied student responses in 114 schools 90 days before and 90 days after active shooter in school drills and concluded: “Drills are linked to increased depression, stress, anxiety and physiological health problems … while student concerns about death also shot up.”

This pro-gun control group concluded “there is almost no research confirming the value for such drills preventing or keeping children safe when (a shooting) does occur”, and “evidence suggests (the drills) are causing lasting emotional and physical harm to students, teachers and the larger community.”

In dramatic contrast, the VirTra simulators will:

1. recreate the actual environment within our schools.

2. be accessible to law enforcement 24/7, 365 days a year. 

3. have no psychological dislocation to students, teachers, parents or neighbors.

4. be repeated at the touch of a button, with 85 “decision branches” embedded for no repeat exercises.

5. have no cost to the Town of Riverhead.

Hopefully this will mean something to someone — at a minimum the thousands of parents of school age kids — when we eventually get away from the location debate.

The author is the owner of a firearms company currently seeking to relocate to Elton Street in Riverhead.