Ironically, the Age of Obama has been a very positive thing for changing public attitudes toward one fundamental liberty for the better: the right to keep and bear arms. Not only that, more and more Americans fully support the right of individuals to carry concealed weapons, and the courts and legislatures are now tending to reflect the overwhelming public tide toward individual liberty and the right of self-defense. I have taken no small delight in the anguish, and I’m sure, screaming, raging tantrums, of anti-liberty activists such as Mr. Obama. I say this not out of spite, but because anyone that would take fundamental American liberties deserves to be uncomfortable and anguished.
Another positive effect of this sea change in public opinion, as well as an increasing number of terrorist attacks on American soil, is that one of the last bastions of progressive, anti-gun sentiment, the universities and public schools, have begun to accept, if not embrace, concealed carry to protect students and teachers from very real threats. Granted, on the state level, college students are trending to be the initial recipients of the freedom they should always have had, but more and more individual school districts–most in the red states–are adopting concealed carry on school property for staff.
This can’t happen soon enough. However, there are problems.
At the end of December, 2015, I wrote about the Keene, TX school district, which recently adopted a concealed carry policy, but with several restrictions that fail to take into account why anyone would need to carry a concealed weapon:
Judging only by the Fox News article, Stephens [school superintendent] is apparently making two mistakes: he’s mandating and buying the weapons, and he’s denying them to teachers in ‘higher level grades,’ apparently out of fear that a student might somehow obtain a teacher’s gun.
Now, a school district in Okay, Oklahoma is making similar mistakes:
New signs posted on the grounds of Okay Public Schools announce an ‘Armed School Employees’ policy in place.
The Okay Public Schools Board of Education passed an ‘Armed School Employees’ policy in August. On Monday, the district publicized that policy with signage in front of the school.
‘The signs are more or less a deterrent,’ Superintendent Charles McMahan said. ‘We don’t want to be a soft target.’
McMahan said his administration looks for ways to keep students safe and secure, particularly since the Okay Police Department was disbanded in December 2014. Although Wagoner County sheriff’s deputies are available, McMahan said it is ‘seconds, not minutes, that matter.
So far so good. The Okay district has obviously recognized reality and decided to acknowledge it, something that, in education circles, cannot be taken for granted. Now for the problems:
One Okay employee is approved to carry. For other employees to arm themselves, they must qualify with a Council on Law Enforcement Education Training certification or license; possess an Oklahoma Self Defense Act License; and be CLEET qualified with the firearm, according to the policy.
After an employee has completed the qualifications, they may submit themselves to the OPS Board of Education for approval before carrying, McMahan said. Okay is the only school in the Green Country area with an armed-employee policy, he said.
‘Our standards are higher,’ McMahan said. ‘We really wanted people to know this is serious to us; we don’t take this issue lightly.
A model policy for arming school staff should look like this:
(1) Rationale: Staff are armed because an armed attack is possible at any school and at any place in and around any school at any time.
(2) The police cannot deter attacks, nor can they arrive in time to save lives. Any school relying on the police is knowingly accepting some number of wounded and dead based entirely on traffic patterns, the number of officers available when the call goes out, the lack of marksmanship of killers, in effect, dumb luck.
(3) Fundamental Principle: to have as many armed staff members present in every school as possible, so that when and wherever an attack takes place, there will be multiple armed and capable adults ready, then and there, at that instant, to save lives.
(4) All handguns must, at all times, be concealed and carried on the person. A gun locked in a drawer, a safe, or a centrally located armory is of no use to anyone confronted with deadly force in a school hallway, at a bus stop, in a sports stadium, a cafeteria, or any other place.
(5) Schools must resist the temptation to overregulate and micromanage. A wide range of handguns and calibers must be authorized so that each willing staff member can choose a gun with which they are comfortable and with which they can shoot accurately.
(6) The minimum standard for carrying should be holding a state concealed carry license, which means the person holding that license understands the laws of deadly force, and has demonstrated proficiency with their handgun.
(7) Additional training, including tactics–actual practice in the schools with safe training guns and projectiles–law and marksmanship, should be offered yearly. “In service training” sessions are notorious in education for their lack of value and horrific wasting of time. This would not be the case here. In 2013, a day-long concealed carry class conceived by Navy SEAL Chris Kyle drew more than 700 Texas teachers.
(8) Any school district with a CC policy must widely publicize that fact, such publicity to be repeated several times each year. Large signs advertising that staff are armed and ready must be posted at all district buildings.
(9) Any school district with a CC policy must take great care never to identify anyone carrying a concealed weapon, nor must it ever disclose the number of people carrying on any campus, or within the entire district.
(10) Once the policy is adopted, the time for public argument is over. The schools must present a united front, not to suppress honest dissent, but to maximize the deterrent effect of the policy, which is the strongest secondary reason to adopt such a policy. The first is the Fundamental Principle. Even if a given school has not so much as a single round of ammunition on the premises, as long as the public doesn’t know that, that school enjoys the benefits of deterrence, and is substantially safer.
Obviously, there are additional issues involved. No one should ever be forced to carry arms. This is a matter for the willing, thoughtful and dedicated.
The Okay district is making the fundamental mistake of overregulation and micromanagement. It is essentially requiring that anyone carrying a concealed handgun be educated to the level of a basic police officer. It has also entirely thrown away its deterrence by announcing to the media that only a single employee is armed, and publicizing the fact that the process is so daunting, it is highly unlikely many more will ever be armed.
Police Misconceptions: Most police officers are not skilled shooters. For virtually all American law enforcement agencies, weapon training consists of a very basic course early in their career, and thereafter, once a year qualification shooting requiring no more than 50 rounds, and very generous qualification scores, including the ability to reshoot as many times as necessary to make a minimum passing score.
But doesn’t this mean that citizens are worse than the police? No. Donning a uniform and badge does not confer magical shooting abilities beyond the reach of non-police officers. Anyone that has attended a class at Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, and many similar schools around the nation is almost certainly far better educated and more capable than the majority of American police officers, and this applies to women as well. Most police are just not gun guys and girls.
Teachers carrying concealed weapons at school are not police officers. If their weapons are properly concealed, no one will ever know they’re carrying. Most will complete a career and none of their students will ever be aware their meek little math teacher was ready and able to defend their lives if necessary. They would expose their weapons in only two circumstances:
(1) If they, another staff member, or their students were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death due to an active shooter; and
(2) If they, another staff member, or their students, were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death for any other reason.
Police officers are comprehensively trained, retrained, and updated on a wide variety of disciplines because their responsibilities go far beyond knowing when to shoot and how to shoot when necessary. This is not true for teachers. They need only know the laws of deadly force, and how to shoot straight when the time comes. Of course regular–and competent–tactical training is a good thing, and should be offered, but likely, many of the people that would be willing to carry would also be willing to use their own time and resources to attend professional classes.
Just as most police officers are not expert with their weapons, most are not expert teachers of others. For example, anyone attending one of attorney Andrew Branca’s Law Of Self Defense seminars will surely be better educated on that topic than most police officers. The same is true of Branca’s book by the same name.
Overregulation and micromanagement render the Rationale and Fundamental Principle null and void. In Okay, Oklahoma, with the best of intentions, the school district, by making it nearly impossible for anyone to carry a handgun, and by publicizing how hard it is and that only a single person is so authorized has not only discouraged anyone else from carrying, they’ve told every criminal and lunatic around that despite the signs and good intentions, their odds of success in attacking an Okay school are no different than attacking schools idiotically proud of the fact they are completely defenseless.
We are still early in the process of convincing educators and the general public that the lives of teachers and children are of equal value on and off school property. Far too many Americans have not yet made the practical connection that bad things can happen in and around schools even though we want to believe that schools, by their very nature, are inherently safe, sort of secular holy ground where evil dare not rear its head. Intellectually, they know evil and crazy people can and do attack schools and kill children and teachers. Intellectually, they know that the only thing that can stop armed attackers when and where they attack is armed teachers. But practically, they just haven’t quite made the connection–yet.
By continuing to make people aware of the necessity of avoiding overregulation and micromanagement, we can be certain of one thing: we’re going to save innocent lives. That we’ll never know how many is a feature, not a bug.