In the school shooter debate, there are some on the right track, but they never go far enough to the single, simple, easy to implement and most effective solution. After Sandy Hook, the NRA advocated armed security guards in every American school, all 100,000 of them. What’s wrong with that? I’ll explain shortly, but now, a Kentucky state legislator is suggesting allowing teacher or staff to carry on campus, except he really isn’t, as NPR.org reports:
The school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that took 17 lives followed one in rural western Kentucky by three weeks. The Kentucky shooter killed two high school sophomores and injured 18 other people.
‘In the wake of the tragedy at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky’s Republican governor and legislature say they won’t consider any gun-control proposals. Instead, a measure allowing teachers or staff to carry guns on campus has gained traction.
Republican state Sen. Steve West admits his bill isn’t going to stop all school shootings, but he hopes it’ll help. [skip]
Under Senate Bill 103, public school boards and private schools would be able to tap teachers or staff to serve as ‘school marshals,’ who would be allowed to carry a gun on campus if they have a concealed carry permit.
The only rational and effective policy, which not only offers genuine deterrence as well as the probability of stopping a school attacker before anyone is injured, or at the least, minimizing the number of wounded and dead, is allowing willing teachers and other staff to carry concealed handguns. The primary principle, which must not be violated, is to put as many competent, willing armed adults as possible in every school so that when an attack occurs, there will be as many people as possible ready, then and there, to stop it. For such a policy to work, these factors must be in effect:
*Teachers must be concealed carry license holders.
*They may carry any handgun they can effectively conceal in a range of common and effective calibers, such as .380ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45ACP.
*They must carry hollow point and/or other expanding ammunition only.
*All handguns must be concealed and carried on the person at all times, and never stored in lockboxes, desk drawers, etc.
*The school district must publicize, in the media, on its websites, and on signage, that adults are carrying concealed weapons and authorized to use deadly force, but no one, including those carrying concealed handguns, must ever reveal that fact to anyone. No one must ever reveal how many are carrying concealed or where they work.
This is where things go wrong whenever government is involved. It–even Republicans–wants as much power over every detail of the lives of its citizens as possible. In this case, government invariably violates the primary principle. In Kentucky, the proposed law establishes “school marshals,” who are surely going to have onerous training and certification requirements that go far beyond what is necessary. It’s likely only a single make and model of handgun will be mandated, as well as a single make and model of holster–if teachers are allowed to carry at all–all of which will be owned by schools. All of this, and more, will ensure a minimal number of adults carrying handguns.
To become certified to teach, one must undergo an extensive background check, demonstrate proof of education and be photographed and fingerprinted. If one has a concealed carry license, they have already been vetted by the state—teachers doubly so—and have, commonly demonstrated not only proficiency, but know the laws relating to concealed carry and the use of deadly force. They are considered capable of safely carrying almost everywhere but on school property, and experience uniformly proves such people are uncommonly law abiding and safe, yet unnecessary restrictions suggest there is something about school property that magically renders such people unsafe and inexperienced.
Obviously, the state and schools should offer regular tactical training and qualifications, and accept certifications from professional schools and organizations such as the NRA, Gunsite, etc., but those with licenses are already considered capable of responsibly using their handguns by the state, nearly everywhere but on school property. Equally obviously, schools must approve those carrying, and can establish realistic requirements, but again, must honor the primary principle.
State Sen. Danny Carroll, a Republican whose district includes Marshall County, says he’s concerned about teachers using live ammunition in active shooter situations.
He’s proposed a bill that would allow teachers and staff to use non-lethal weapons that would be stored on campus.
“We’re talking about beanbag shotguns, shotguns that shoot rubber pellets, rubber bullets that are shot out of a pistol or a rifle, tranquillizer guns, the flashbang devices that you often see on TV when a SWAT teams make an entrance into a house,’ Carroll said.
Mark Twain said no man’s life or liberty is safe when the legislature is in session. Carroll, who is no doubt well intentioned, proves Twain’s prescience. He obviously has no idea of the difference between less lethal force and lethal force and their applications.
Police officers using bean bags or rubber bullets—both of which can kill if improperly used—always use them with other officers covering the suspect with actual firearms loaded with live ammunition in case the less lethal alternatives fail, as they often do. Such things are not a replacement for deadly force, but a less lethal—not non-lethal—alternative, which might be applied in certain, narrow circumstances. The same applies to flashbangs, which are used only to momentarily stun a dangerous suspect to slightly lessen the possibility they’ll be able to kill the SWAT troops rushing into the room immediately after the explosion. If improperly used, they too can injure or kill, and used in large, open spaces, such as long school hallways or outdoors, cannot accomplish their intended purpose.
The idea that one can or should use less lethal means to stop someone actively shooting people in a school is the height of foolishness. Trying would be actually suicidal.
Absolutely idiotic is the idea of tranquilizer guns. Anesthetic dosages are calculated by body weight and a number of other factors—by physicians. There is no known drug that, which may or may not be injected by a dart which may or may not penetrate a shooter’s clothing, and which may or may not inject the entire dose, will instantly render someone unconscious. More likely, it will fail, make them a little drowsy—raging adrenaline tends to counteract such effects—or kill them, ten or twenty minutes later. Tranquilizer guns that accurately shoot darts that instantly and safely incapacitate people at long distance are inventions of Hollywood. In this at least, Carroll is right; one does see them on TV.
In Moscow in October of 2002, a groups of Chechen terrorists seized hostage in a theater. The government employed an “incapacitating agent,” which it has refused to identity. The Russians have likely refused because the gas killed as many as 130 hostages.
I recently heard the spouse of a teacher argue that teachers have too many responsibilities to even consider the awesome responsibility of having to use deadly force. Teachers need not be police officers. They will draw and use their weapons only to stop the imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death to themselves or others. They need only be competent with their handguns, and know the laws regulating the use of deadly force. If they’re never faced with deadly danger, they’ll never draw their weapon, and no one will ever know they carried one. For the overwhelming majority of teachers, that will be reality. For teachers with concealed carry licenses, the only change will be their ability to protect themselves and others in one more place, perhaps the most important.
Obviously, anyone unwilling to accept the responsibility that goes with carrying a handgun should never be required to carry one. But who, facing the deaths of their students, and their own death, truly would not want the means to save lives? What philosophy or principle demands death rather than self-defense? Who would be satisfied with calling someone with a gun and hoping they could get there before too many were wounded or killed? What parent, given that choice, would truly say, “no thank you. I’d rather my child’s life depend on the mercy of homicidal maniacs than allow the people to whom I already entrust my child’s safety to have the means to save their lives.” One suspects parents would be grateful for a teacher that saved the lives of their children. If so inclined, they could blame the NRA later.
The article also notes teachers won’t be allowed to carry concealed weapons, but weapons will be secured in lock boxes somewhere in their schools. This is actually in effect in some schools that authorize “concealed carry,” which obviously isn’t concealed carry at all. This is also a ridiculous–and potentially deadly–violation of the primary principle. The point is to have as many armed adults as possible present when and wherever an attack takes place.
Consider the Newtown attack. The first officer arrived nine minutes after the attack began, but only about four minutes after the Newtown Police Department received the call. A four-minute response time is blazingly fast for such incidents. Unfortunately, he was not able to enter the building until nearly 15 minutes after the attack began. By then, the killer had been dead by his own hand for about five minutes. He had ten minutes to kill, four more than the Florida shooter. At Newtown and Florida, the killers chose the killing time frame, and the police had no role in stopping them. They virtually never do. The Florida killer chose to kill for six minutes, but particularly if he intended to die, could have continued for 15 minutes or more, more than doubling the body count.
At Newtown, and everywhere else, a blazingly fast four-minute response time doesn’t matter, because the police didn’t actually arrive until nine minutes after the attack began. The killer would continue to kill for only one additional minute. The officers, while outside the building, actually heard the shot that killed him. And even if he were still shooting after the officers entered five minutes later, it would have taken them several minutes to find the killer, and likely more to successfully stop him. Officers can’t blindly careen down hallways, shooting as they run. If they die in the attempt, they help no one. They have to move quickly, but intelligently.
In school attacks, seconds drag and minutes are an eternity. Time and distance are vital, determinative factors. By the time a call is made to the police reporting an attack, children and teachers are already dead. More will die as the dispatcher understands what is happening and makes the call to patrol officers, and more still will die as officers make their way to the school. Their arrival only places them in the parking lot. They still have to make their way into a completely unfamiliar building—or buildings–find the shooter, and stop him without being killed, in which case, they’ll save no one. During those minutes, which are multiplied by the size of the school—a school like Douglas High School with multiple buildings over a large area is essentially a small city—more will die.
I trust the folly of keeping guns in lock boxes is obvious? Any teacher becoming aware of an attack must run, if the shooter isn’t between them and a gun, to a lock box, and then try to find and engage the shooter. As they do, even if they can without being killed, people will die while they run back and forth. What of a teacher whose class is in the library, in the auditorium, in a gym, supervising kids waiting for busses, or at recess? Confronted by a shooter even more distant from a gun locker, they’re dead, and so are their students. They’re dead even if a gun locker is only 20 feet away across their classroom. All of the training and certification they’ve undergone is meaningless and did no good for anyone, all because government wasn’t smart enough to allow them to carry their handguns with them so they could be employed instantly wherever they were, where and whenever they were needed.
Government has no conscience. It is all about safety for the children, but the devil is in the details, and the details are what politics are all about. It wants to protect the children, an abstraction, but individual children and teachers, not so much.
Any policy that prevents capable adults from stopping an attack when and where it occurs, or as quickly as humanly possible, is a policy that knowingly accepts some number of wounded and dead.
Only competent adults, carrying a concealed handgun with which they are comfortable and effective, can stop an attacker, as quickly as possible, when and where an attack begins. This is the only policy that can actually limit the body count and save lives. I’m sure West and Carroll have the best intentions, but anything less guarantees injuries and deaths.