Whenever there is an issue or tragedy in America, the social media mavens of the U.S. read an article or two (if that) and become instant experts on the topic. The latest issue of that is the shooting in the school in Florida where 17 people tragically lost their lives to a deranged gunman, who after shooting up the school, went to McDonalds until he was arrested by Florida authorities.
Then President Trump put forth the idea that arming teachers is the way to stop the violence in schools. While I disagree with that assumption, (and we’ll get to that shortly), the very idea of any kind of reasonable debate went right out the window. We no longer have discussions on topics on social media. We have shouting matches that quickly resort to name calling.
I know many people on both sides of the debate and their comments were as pointed as their minds were closed. Here a few examples of each:
“The only way to ban school violence is to ban assault weapons completely and confiscate all AR-15s”
“The generation that a week ago was eating Tide Pods and can’t find Lexington and Concord on a f***ing map now want to preach gun control?”
There isn’t much room for any middle ground discussion there. But as I mentioned above, I don’t believe arming teachers is the right way to go. You want professionals doing the job and professionals need to be doing it. With very few exceptions, and I’ll get to that later as well. But here are a few reasons why:
There’s a Big Difference Between Hitting a Target and Tactically Sound: I’ve had this conversation a couple of times this week with people in my hometown. If the average person goes out and buys a handgun, even one with little experience, within a short amount of training and practice, they’ll be able to begin hitting their target fairly accurately very quickly. So are they ready to protect anyone? Not even close.
It takes vast amounts of practice and repetition in a high-stress environment before anyone is ready for that. For starters, even for avid target shooters, when was the last time you went thru a combat range with no ear muffs on? The noise, confusion, and utter chaos of a potential hostage or deranged shooter scenario will increase the pucker factor ten-fold.
While I can’t speak for the civilian side of the world, the men in the military who work in that realm fire hundreds of rounds a week. And in doing so, they go thru intensive training in discriminating a target in a very chaotic, high threat environment. It isn’t easy to do or prepare for. It takes a long time and effort to get to be proficient at it. And even then, it isn’t as easy as some people believe it to be.
The average person doesn’t have this level of training nor preparedness. While they are well within their rights to carry a weapon to protect themselves under the 2nd Amendment, most won’t have the expertise to carry them safely thru an active shootout.
Teachers have the right to protect themselves as well as anyone else, but the only proper solution would be to have them stay in place and protect their classrooms from the inside and not roam the hallways trying to engage the shooter(s) in the case that they get engaged accidentally by law enforcement.
Who Pays For This? If the government decides to go ahead with this idea and arming teachers and education people in the schools, then they’ll have to fund the training for the educators to get proficient. Does anyone really think they’ll allocate enough money to do the job?
Even if it is funded federally, there will never be enough money to fund anything more than a probably a basic firearms course.
Adding Security Measures to Schools: Besides adding additional police officers or trained security personnel to the schools (unlike the failure in Florida), there are certainly more that can be done to deter but not prevent active shooters from reaching the inside of schools. Shooters and deranged persons pick schools for a variety of reasons. But one overriding factor is that they are soft targets and in “gun-free zones.”
There are devices that can be placed inside of classroom doors on the floor that will prevent the doors from being opened from the outside. Access points during the day can and should be locked and visitors being buzzed in from a security monitor where the visitor will be required to go thru a metal detector.
Think about how many fire safety features go into a school while it is being constructed. Fireproof materials, sprinkler systems, fire alarms etc. Why aren’t security systems just as important? We go to great lengths to protect our children from a fire in schools. Just as much thought should go to protecting them from the evil that exists outside their walls.
Police Chief’s Take on Arming Teachers: Despite all of the posturing by “barrel-chested freedom fighters” on social media, many of whom have never owned or fired a weapon before, even us “FOGs” from Special Operations, we aren’t going to be the ones charging in the door in the case of a gunman entering a school in our cities and towns. That is falling to our local and state police departments.
In my own hometown, there are three schools (two elementary and Jr/Sr High School) that are less than a mile from the Police Department HQs. They’ll be tasked with getting there and securing the students and staff, the building and taking down a shooter so I contacted the Chief of Police.
I’ve witnessed Chief Don Desorcy for more than a decade here as a member of the local press as well as a citizen. He’s a 30+ year veteran of the force and has risen up the ranks to now lead the town’s police force. He’s always been a calming influence in even the most volatile of situations. He’s also a no-nonsense pragmatic leader who is under no illusions that situations like Florida can happen anywhere.
When I reached out to him, he told me that he was just having a conversation with a member of his own family about this very subject. “I’ll tell you right up front, I’m against arming of teachers. While some of them may be well trained, the majority of them would not be and it could just make the situation more dangerous for everyone involved.” He admitted that his own officers don’t get enough range time, which isn’t an uncommon problem but they’ve tried to make the training more realistic than just qualifying with paper targets every year.
He said that even before the latest Florida incident, that a couple of teachers and a custodian for the school asked to be armed for protection and that he said no for the reason he listed above. “The average teacher may be able to hit a paper target at the range with good frequency,” he said. “But as you know, the tactical aspects of shooting in a highly charged atmosphere are vastly different. If we had teachers here who were ex-Navy SEALs or Green Berets and wanted to have a weapon, I’d have little opposition to that. Their level of training and experience is far above what any citizen or even most police officers have. But those guys are few and far between.”
Desorcy said he worried about teachers being armed and being misidentified once the police are entering the premises. “We’re entering the building with the mindset that we’re going to eliminate the threat…period. All that other stuff is only on t.v. The officers are entering a very high-stress, chaotic scene and they see someone with a gun? Especially if it is someone from another town or the state police (our area has a Regional SWAT Team) they may not know or recognize the teacher with a gun.” Which could have tragic results.
He noted the communication between the armed teachers and the police would be iffy at best and there would be the issue of a communication breakdown.
He believes that arming teachers is not the solution. “When you look at the status of mental health care right now, the states have all cut the funding and too many people in dire need of services are out walking the streets. Now, too many people are being over-medicated. That’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”
He stated that arming teachers and more restrictive gun laws aren’t solutions. “I worry more about a car being driven like we’ve seen elsewhere at our outdoor mall or at our annual 4th of July fireworks where a large number of people are clustered in very small, confined areas. In just a matter of seconds, a car can be driven into the crowds and kill or injure hundreds in the blink of an eye. We’re always looking for ways to improve our security while not impacting the freedom of the population or their enjoyment of daily activities.”
He added that the department is always checking on the security of the schools, something he does personally. Our town does have a school resource officer who is assigned there all day long. The town is being proactive and searching out deterrents such as a device that could be installed in each of the schools.
As soon as a gunshot is fired, it triggers a warning that rings right to the department and identifies the school, the hallway, and floor where the gunshot was fired from immediately. Whereas the telephone call from the school may at times take minutes in the confusion. Desorcy stated the officers could be arriving at the school with this device before an actual phone call be sent to the department. They are looking at other deterrents as well, such as metal detectors, etc.
“The world we grew up in has changed. This town was like Mayberry growing up in,” he said. “Now, places I’ve never considered carry my weapon off-duty, I carry all the time now…like going to the local grocery store or to church on Sunday…”
There are some places where the arming of teachers does make sense. In small, spread out rural communities, the police may be 20-30 minutes away in a crisis situation. That is far-too-long. There is a specific town in Arkansas with that issue and the staff is armed and trained to deal with a crisis situation as the police are 20 minutes away minimum. The staff and student body regularly conduct active shooter drills. Is it ideal? No, but they do what they must.
In all other situations, it is best to leave the security to the professionals. While we will be the last ones to tell people that they can’t protect themselves but look to teachers to protect students as the solution isn’t the answer. Our teachers need to be armed with lesson plans, books, and computers. They have enough to do there.
Photo: Wikipedia/ABC News