Firearms and Shooting Incident Expert Weighs in on Sandy Hook and Gun Control Debate
Firearms and shooting incident reconstruction expert, Michael Knox, has spent the past two decades dealing with gun violence. Knox, a former Jacksonville police detective, is president of a forensic consulting firm that consults with attorneys and others, helping them by reconstructing shooting incidents for court cases. Knox has reconstructed shootings in places as far away as Texas, Illinois, and New Jersey, and he has trained law enforcement officials on four continents about investigating firearms-related incidents. Knox knows all too well the tragedies of gun violence from incidents such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
"I've been predicting that something like this was going to happen," Knox explains. "Just this summer, I taught an undergraduate forensic investigations class, and I told the students that, if they want to pursue a career as a crime scene investigator, they had better be prepared to deal with an active shooter incident at a daycare or elementary school."
Knox is all too familiar with gun violence against children. In 2002, Knox reconstructed the trajectories of the shots that killed Jacksonville resident Johnnie Gatlin and her two young nephews, Chris and Deon Kirkland. In 2006, Knox tracked the paths of 29 bullets that ripped through a Northside house, killing 8-year-old Dreshawna Davis.
"It's the only one that has no ending," Knox testified at the trial of Dreshawna's killer, referring to the one bullet that didn't end up lodged in the house but, instead, ended up inside the little girl as she sat on her bed watching The Cat in the Hat.
Though he was not part of the crime scene team at Sandy Hook, Knox, a father of five, knows all too well what a scene like that looks like. "Most people can't imagine what that type of scene is like," Knox explains, "but, for me, it's real. Even though I wasn't there, I know exactly what a scene like that looks like, what it feels like."
Knox believes that the debate over gun control is not the answer. He believes that the answer lies in securing schools.
"After 9/11, nobody talked about banning box cutters or airplanes," Knox says. "We spent billions securing airports and other potential targets. We take our shoes off, go through body scanners, and throw away our liquids before we get on an airplane and think nothing off it."
Knox believes that, while increases in our anti-terrorism intelligence capabilities were critical to protecting us against future attacks, target hardening is key to making us safe. Knox points to the work done by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, a former military man and the world's leading expert on the psychology of killing. Grossman, Knox explains, points to how schools approach fire safety.
"As Grossman explains, not one single child has died in an American school due to fire in the last fifty years," says Knox. "That's the case because we have layer upon layer of redundant fire safety measures in place."
But when it comes to securing schools against violence, we haven't done a good job. "There have been over seventy documented school shootings in this country in recent years," Knox explains. "Simply locking the door won't make a school safe from violence. Why is it that it is more difficult to get into an airport or courthouse in this country than it is to get into an elementary school? Our children spend an average of 32 hours per week in school. Schools should be locked up so tight that nobody is getting in without a fight. Try making it past TSA and see how that goes."
Knox believes that Congress needs to focus on school security and mental health, not on gun control. "Every minute and every dollar we spend debating gun control puts us that much closer to another school massacre," Knox says. "Columbine happened five years into the 1994 assault weapons ban. Magazine capacity was limited to ten rounds. That didn't stop Eric Harris. He just brought thirteen of them to the school and fired 96 shots from a gun that was legal under the ban."
Michael Knox is a forensic consultant and is the owner of Knox & Associates, LLC , a Jacksonville, Florida-based forensic consulting company that specializes in firearms, ballistics, and crime scene reconstruction. He was a police-officer/detective with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for over 15 years having worked in patrol, DUI enforcement, crime scene investigations, and traffic homicide investigations. He was the training coordinator for the agency’s crime scene unit for several years and has provided crime scene training in Peru, the United Arab Emirates, the Republic of Georgia, and around the United States. He has testified as an expert witness in crime scene reconstruction in state and federal courts in Florida, Alabama, Texas, and Illinois. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of North Florida and Master of Science degree in forensic science from the University of Florida. He also holds current certification as a crime scene reconstructionist through the International Association for Identification and accreditation as a traffic accident reconstructionist through the Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction.