There has been much talk along with a little screaming and hollering over the suggestion by the President and others that teachers be allowed to carry concealed on school property as an adjunct to on-site security/police presence. His suggestion was also clearly couched in terms of voluntary involvement and that only a relatively small percentage of teachers would be needed to affect improvements in the threat of school violence.
Nonetheless, the gun-grabbers and nay-sayers that refuse to accept anything less than complete capitulation by anyone who believes that our Constitution is just as relevant to today’s world as it was in 1787, insist that such a proposal is a terrible idea that would endanger kids and distract from the teaching environment. I beg to differ.
The whole point of allowing (not forcing) teachers who willingly and comfortably choose to carry do so was to bring in the protective element of concealed carry while remaining as low-key as possible so as not to disrupt the teaching environment. With modern equipment available to both male and female firearms carriers, the ability to conceal a useful firearm and still make it readily available when needed is not a difficult task. Keeping it concealed is largely a matter of wardrobe selection and choice of that equipment that suits the individual.
From purely a policy standpoint, the only shortcoming I could see in such a plan is when faced with a situation where students are moving about the building between periods and the attack takes place at the same time – like it did in Parkwood. The confusion mixed with no readily available means to identify armed teachers could put those teachers at risk if law enforcement comes on the scene and sees multiple firearms mixed in with the students.
That concern could be addressed based on the circumstances at the time by establishing a policy that when changing periods, armed teachers remain in the classroom and either defend students in the room already, or (if the room is already empty) facilitate students entering the room to seek shelter. In this way, they would be stationary and law enforcement would know that they are staff rather than a perpetrator.
On a national level, this should not even be a subject of discussion. As with so many things, the federal government has no authority to interfere with what happens in our schools. Yes, they have usurped much on this area, but we can only pray that it will eventually end with states retaking their authority over the education of our children and youth. On this subject, just this morning Politico’s Morning education email quotes the Senate Education Committee Chairman, Lamar Alexander as stating, “I’m not a fan of [arming school personnel]. Again, that’s up to the States.”
While you can differ with his view on the subject, his conclusion is a welcome breath of fresh air coming from the Senate. Unfortunately, Alexander should have stopped there instead of adding, “We don’t arm pilots. … We arm marshals who are trained professionals, who ride the airplanes from time to time. So, we need resource officers or policemen in schools, that’s one thing. I think teachers ought to teach and let policemen have the guns.” In fact, several Airlines allow pilots to be armed because, 1) not all flights include Air Marshals; and 2) If an attacker breaches the cockpit, they serve as a last line of defense against an intruder. Common sense. A classroom full of students need someone that will defend them if the room is breached. If, for no other reason, the option should be made available to any teacher if they choose to accept the offer.
At the state level, guidelines should be established so that law enforcement is working with a uniform expectation when approaching an “active shooter” situation. These guidelines should be just that- guidelines – with the final decision regarding the arming of teachers or staff left to each district to decide. Local control in such matters is always the best policy. What is right for one school district might not be right for another.
Bottom line here is to avoid a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of any sort of violence within our schools. Not every situation is the same. Part of any training required of teachers to participate in the security of their school should include situational awareness training as well as training in knowing when to reach for their firearm and when not to. As a firearms instructor, the thing that I emphasize most with anyone who chooses to carry a firearm is that practice should be paramount and should bring you to the point where reactions are consistent and automatic. But unless one is willing to exercise a life or death decision on the spur of the moment. They should think twice before making a commitment. Hesitation at a critical point can cause an entirely different sort of tragedy.
It is certain that regardless of what policy changes and legislative choices are made, it is highly unlikely that they will be 100 percent effective in preventing future incidents. To believe otherwise is foolish. The best we can hope for is a mix of policies and actions that effectively reduce occurrences and tragic loss of life. Arming teachers is only a single element in a multi-faceted effort, and it should be clearly voluntary.
Two parting thoughts:
- Eliminating “Gun Free Zones” is a far more effective action to start with, when it comes to deterrence, and
- The gun is not the problem. It’s the person holding it that can make all the difference.