The first three articles in this series are:
This updated article continues with answers to additional issues raised in article 3.
QUESTIONS, ANSWERS AND SOLUTIONS, PART I (continued):
Q: WHAT ABOUT SCHOOL LIAISON OFFICERS?
Some schools have armed police officers on their campuses during school hours, more have part time officers, but most have none. School liaison officers are expensive; they are of little use to a day-to-day patrol force, yet their salaries must come, in part or whole, out of a police budget. Even if a school has an assigned liaison officer—and this is true primarily for large high schools–-the odds that the officer will be on campus when an attack occurs, or will be in the part of the building necessary to take immediate and effective action are small. The duties of these officers do not include continuously monitoring entryways, and it wouldn’t matter if they did; schools have far too many to cover. In addition, officers can’t be at most extra-curricular activities, which usually occur after school.
Many schools have the populations of small towns, and modern schools are like mazes to those who don’t work in them daily. Those most likely to know who doesn’t belong on a campus and what is happening on a moment-by-moment basis are those who work there: the teachers. They are also present at each and every activity of a school, whether during the normally scheduled school day, or at extra-curricular activities.
As I noted in an article about the NRA’s 2012 proposal to put police officers in every school, while it would be better than nothing, it’s simply not possible. There are too many schools (more than 100,000), too few police officers, and for the brokest nation in the history of the world, irrational to consider. To hire enough officers to adequately protect every American school is impractical, unnecessary, and we can’t afford it. Worst of all, it would not address every threat, particularly that of multiple attackers, as I noted in this bit of 2014 fiction.
Time is no longer on the side of the good guys. When an active shooter or shooters enter a school, if they are not engaged and stopped immediately, the only factor determining the eventual death toll will be their good will or lack of marksmanship. No one possessing good will would be carrying out a mass murder attack on a school anyway, and when the targets are children trapped in small classrooms, one need not be an Olympic quality marksman to wreak havoc.
Many schools do not have two-way intercom systems, so a teacher seeing an armed attacker in a hallway may have no way–other than their own cell phone, which may or may not work inside the school–to notify the office, warn other teachers, or to call the police, short of running down that same hallway to do it in person. While the police speed toward the building, a process that will take at least five, if not many more, minutes, children and teachers will die. That, at least, is indisputable.
Q: TEACHERS CARRYING GUNS?
One significant reason violent crime has uniformly declined in right to carry states is that even though only a small fraction of the population carries a concealed weapon, the likelihood is high that some honest citizen will be carrying a handgun virtually anywhere at any time. Knowing this, criminals can never know who will be armed and must assume that everyone might be. Therefore though only a small portion of the honest population carry concealed weapons, they provide a protective, deterrent effect for the general public far out of proportion to their numbers. Criminals fear the guns of armed citizens far more than those of the police. The police are predictable and criminals are used to dealing with them, but citizens just might choose to shoot them out of anger. It is well known indeed that criminals take pains to avoid armed citizens.
Tragically, cities and states that use every legislative trick in the book to disarm their citizens have high crime rates, and higher murder rates. Circa 2016, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and other usual suspect cities are experiencing record numbers of shootings and murders by gunfire.
How many citizens carry concealed weapons? Official state records vary from 3-8 million. But because an ever-increasing number of states no longer require any permit–constitutional carry–and many citizens may reasonably be presumed to carry regardless of what the government tries to regulate, one can safely believe that the numbers are significantly higher than official records would indicate. Add in the number of people who carry in their vehicles, and the numbers are probably even higher.
What is the value of a teacher’s life? If they have an inalienable right to self defense, a right the state can’t confer and may not take away, how is it they lose that right when they cross a school property line? How can it be that a teacher has the right to protect their life, and the lives of their own children, everywhere but at school? Do school property boundaries truly determine the value of the lives of teachers and school children? At present, in most places, they do.
Those already licensed for concealed carry provide a ready pool for schools. Many people assume that the police are all expert shots. Not so. Many police officers are required to qualify with their firearms only once a year. The courses of fire are commonly ridiculously easy–a trend that government mandates to ensure “diversity” in police forces has made necessary–and passing scores laughably generous. Many officers fire their weapons only on those occasions (and clean them less often).
Shooting skills can be learned by virtually anyone, and a great many citizens exceed the police in shooting skill. This is not to denigrate the police in any way–they do a difficult job well–but putting on a police uniform does not endow the wearer with magical shooting powers beyond the reach of citizens. Most teachers are women, and firearms teachers know that women often make the best students, commonly lacking the preconceptions and ingrained bad habits present in many men. They also tend to inherently respect the power firearms represent. I suspect that many people around the nation might be surprised to discover how many teachers–male and female–are quite competent with firearms, and how many routinely carry concealed weapons (depending on one’s state of residence, personal experience may vary).
Publicizing that teachers are allowed to carry, suggesting that they are carrying, but taking pains to ensure that no one knows who or how many are armed in any given school, will confer upon all teachers, students and schools the benefit of making every school a harder target. No one should be required to carry a firearm against their will. Even if one school in a district has no one on campus carrying a concealed weapon, as long as the public doesn’t know that but reasonably believes that some are, the school retains the deterrent effect of appearing to be a harder target. We need all the deterrent we can get.
If you were planning a school attack and knew that the Smallville School District allowed concealed carry on school property, even encouraged it, but the Pleasantville School district next door did not, in which school district would you be more likely to attack? Terrorists and school shooters are deterred only when they believe their mission might be thwarted, which tends to cause them to shift to a softer target. Currently, virtually every American elementary and secondary school is a soft target.
Q: THE POLICE ARE HIGHLY TRAINED. TEACHERS CAN’T HAVE THAT SAME LEVEL OF TRAINING. WON’T THEY DO WORSE THAN POLICE OFFICERS?
Remember above all that in virtually every school shooting, the police have had no active role in stopping shooters, who usually commit suicide, before police are in a position to even see, let alone stop, them. Police officers are indeed extensively trained, but in a wide variety of knowledge and skills necessary for the many tasks their jobs require. The skills they, or anyone, needs to stop a school attacker are few, specific, and do not require years of study and lengthy on the job application of skills and experience, to learn and master.
Teachers are no different than anyone else licensed to carry a concealed weapon. In virtually every state, they must learn the law relating to the use of deadly force—these issues are the same for police officers–and demonstrate proficiency with their handgun. This would be a good starting point for schools, as long as the bureaucratic tendency to over-regulate–demanding everyone carry the same gun, holster, etc.–is suppressed. It would be wise for school districts to underwrite tactical training, but this is not absolutely necessary, nor is it difficult or expensive to do or to learn.
Some argue that teachers must focus on teaching and because of this, cannot possibly be aware of their surroundings or effectively protect themselves or others. This assertion is mistaken on many levels. Anyone can learn to be more aware of their surroundings, to develop “situational awareness.” And if a teacher carrying a concealed weapon never uses it, as will be–hopefully–the case for all but a few across the nation, their attention to their normal duties is unchallenged. If they must use it to repel a school attack, their attention will be distracted from teaching for only a few minutes, a distraction for which I suspect most teachers, students and parents will be eternally grateful.
Police officers, because of the very nature of their jobs, make mistakes in shooting far more often than citizens. They are required to rush into ambiguous situations and often aren’t sure who is innocent and who is a threat. People on the scene–teachers–know precisely who the bad guy is and what needs to be done. And again, the police virtually never have to make such decisions in school shootings as the killer has commonly killed as many as he pleased, and himself, before they can lay gun sights on him.
At Newtown the killer—who would want his name mentioned—was confronted by a locked, remotely controlled main entrance door. He simply shot his way through the plate glass window next to the door within seconds. In that situation, there would have been no confusion about what was happening. There would have been no question that the killer had deadly intent and that anyone near him was in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. Who could doubt what he intended to do if he got into the school? Armed staff could have shot him while he was still trying to break into the school, though that process took only seconds, and no one need have been injured. No highly advanced and technical skills would be required, only the ability to shoot straight, and at that point in the attack, when no students or other innocents were in danger, it would matter little if staff members firing on the shooter missed a few rounds. Even those rounds might have caused the shooter to turn tail and run. As it was, he was able to kill for ten minutes, and could have taken an additional five–perhaps more–before the first officer entered the building.
Remember too that in elementary schools, most teachers, principals and support staff are female. They tend to lack the size, strength, training and aggressiveness to incapacitate an attacker hand to hand. Even if a principal is a world-class martial artist, this is meaningless unless they can get close enough to an armed attacker without being shot, and even then, their chances aren’t good. In such circumstances, time and distance are the determining factors, and schools are full of long, open hallways with no cover for the unarmed defender.
But a slight woman with a handgun is fully as dangerous to a murderer as a strapping man at the distances likely in school attacks. When my wife and I were last required to qualify with our handguns, I fired a perfect score, and she, using precisely the same make and model of handgun–Glock 26–fired only a single point less, outshooting–with ease–every other man present by a substantial margin. In school attacks, firearms are truly equalizers and lifesavers, particularly for female teachers, just as they are for women outside school property boundaries.
Of course, shooting stationary paper targets is different than shooting at human beings intent on taking one’s life. However, the same dynamics apply to attacker and those being attacked. Arguing against the means of protecting lives because of logistical issues is missing the point in a rather large, obvious and deadly way.
Are we truly prepared to say that when an armed madman breaks into a school and begins shooting, women shouldn’t have the means to protect their lives because they have chosen education as a profession? That’s the very real and deadly effect of current policy.
Next Tuesday I’ll post the fifth article in this series, which continues to address the issues involved in actually saving lives, rather than merely feeling safe, morally superior, or sending messages about what some want the public to believe, regardless of reality.