Bath, chemical sprays, concealed handguns, feel safe, John Banzhaf, nonlethal weapons, Parkland, rime Prevention Resource Center, school attacks, school resource officers, Uvalde, Virginia Tech, virtue signaling
At the beginning of each school year, I update the School Attacks series, which identifies the threat schools face, and provides means to deter attacks, or when they occur, end them with as little injury or death as possible. Enter “school attacks 2022” in the SMM homepage search bar for the most recent series. While that series is focused on K-12 schools, at least in part because those schools are arguably most at risk, and particularly in the lower grades, kids and teachers are unable to resist armed attack, the lessons generally apply to colleges. In fact, the most destructive school attack of the modern era to date, in terms of dead and wounded, is the Virginia Tech attack of April 16, 2007. The deadliest in American history remains the attack on an elementary school in Bath, MI on May 18, 1927, an attack accomplished entirely with the use of explosives.
John Banzhaf is a professor emeritus of law at George Washington University. He has had a long career advocating in “the public interest.” More recently, he has provided a list of ideas he believes can deal with school attacks, as The Washington Examiner, reports:
Banzhaf passed along his new security list of easy fixes that he published last month in University World News. ‘Those in charge of educational institutions, as well as those who teach there, should carefully consider taking some simple, proven, and inexpensive steps to substantially improve safety and reduce the chance that they and-or their students will be injured — or possibly even killed — by an active shooter on campus,’ he wrote.
Let’s examine Banzhaf’s list:
(1) Install classroom doors that can be locked from the inside.
Such locks must also incorporate an exterior key, or teachers who have to step out of their classroom for a moment can find themselves locked out by mischievous students.
(2) Mark each room with an easy-to-find identification and make up-to-date floor plans easily available for first responders.
Schools are like mazes for the police, virtually none of which have ever entered a local school. This is particularly true for schools with additions made after they were first built. Floor plans are fine, but must be relentlessly updated, and always have the potential to dramatically slow any police response.
(3) Provide all administrators and campus police officers with master keys.
Most Americans schools have no school resource officers. Every principal of every school should have master keys, and so should the custodians, the school nurse, a number of teachers, and a set must be kept secure in the office area.
(4) Get police door-opening tools such as the Halligan carried by firefighters.
A reasonable idea, but finding such tools might be a problem for responding police, who should first be finding and assaulting the attacker, rendering breaching tools superfluous. Here we assume Uvalde was a bizarre aberration. The nearly 400 officers there had all the tools they needed, but chose to do nothing.
(5) Install magnetic door-open sensors so administrators can see which doors are open or properly closed in schools.
Another reasonable, but expensive, idea. Locks of this sort are often used not for safety, but for controlling staff. The cost alone makes this unlikely for many schools. A truly effective video system is also cost-prohibitive.
(6) Make it easy to text via cellphone in an emergency.
This too is expensive. Many schools, and not just rural schools, have poor cell coverage, and the very construction of schools makes connections iffy, even in areas with good general coverage. Installing boosters and other infrastructure may be beyond a school’s financial abilities. By all means, there are apps that might help. Uvalde had such an app., but in practice it proved to be worthless. The SMM Uvalde archive is here.
(7) Distribute kits to help quickly stop the type of bleeding left by standard AR-15 rounds.
A reasonably comprehensive medical kit should be in every classroom, and should include quick clotting materials and tourniquets. However, this would tend to intrude on the territory of school nurses, and would also be expensive. While a number of more recent school attackers have used AR-15 pattern rifles, they have not been the most common weapon used. The Virginia Tech attacker used two common handguns.
(8) On school apps, make sure it’s easy to find ways to contact police and officials in an active shooting case.
This relates to Banzhaf’s sixth suggestion. An easy to use, effective app can be helpful, but again, at Uvalde, it wasn’t. It’s all too easy to adopt such things, but then proclaim everyone “safe” and do nothing else. This also relies on the police to respond, which will take minutes at best when seconds matter.
(9) Install one-way peepholes in office and other doors.
One can argue this might be useful in some circumstances, but virtually every door in a school has a window, or large panes of glass abutting it. An attacker with an ounce of intelligence will simply wait until the peephole is shaded—someone is looking through it—and shoot through the door, or the peephole. Such devices might buy a few seconds or minutes, but unless defenders can attack back, that will be their only, limited, effect.
(10) Make a limited availability of guns and post signs stating, ‘Warning, some professors are armed.’
I’ll address this shortly. Note the order of the last two suggestions.
(11) Supply nonlethal weapons, such as bear spray or poles.
Oh dear. Suffice it to say the problem with such “nonlethal” weapons is they are very short-range–essentially hand-to-hand–devices, which must completely expose the defender to the short-range gunfire of an attacker. Both “weapons,” unless employed by complete surprise, and unless the first application immediately incapacitates the attacker, are going to result in dead defenders. Chemical sprays and “poles” are dangerous delusions, “feel safe” virtue signaling.
Banzhaf, who many might consider an “expert” in such things, is surely well-intentioned, but clearly inexperienced. College campuses, which are apparently his focus, present unique dangers, akin to those faced at Parkland, a campus of thousands of students spread across at least 12 separate buildings. The SMM Parkland archive is here. In his tenth suggestion, Banzhaf does hit on the only means of deterring attacks, and of stopping them with little or no loss of life when deterrence fails: arming willing staff.
This policy has several components:
(1) Only willing staff must be involved. No one can be forced to go armed.
(2) All handguns must be effectively concealed on the person–always. A gun locked in a desk, or in some central “armory” will be of no use to a teacher and students attacked on a playground, in a hallway, in the library, on an athletic field, or in a college, walking between buildings.
(3) The fact of the policy must be regularly, constantly advertised, not only by signage, but by frequent media accounts which clearly state staff are armed and capable, but which never reveal how many or where they are. In a given school district, even if no one in a single school is carrying, they share in the deterrent effect, which will, tragically, tend to send attackers to other school districts who rely on “feel safe,” virtue-signaling methods.
(4) Any such policy must be constructed so as not to make carrying and concealment impossible. Rules that mandate a single gun, cartridge or holster are obstructive and unrealistic. Training requirements must not be unreasonable, excessive, and must not ignore differences in anatomy.
As you’ll find, gentle readers, should you review the School Attacks series, educators tend to be leftist, and this is particularly so in colleges, where they tend to be flaming, true believing leftists. They’ll argue allowing teachers to carry guns will result in terrible carnage. Teachers carrying guns somehow destroys a pristine educational environment. It’s not a teacher’s job to be police officers, and they’d have to be trained to be police officers to carry guns. Teachers have to focus every second of their efforts on teaching, not on shooting attackers.
All of these arguments, and more, are nonsense—dangerous nonsense. We now have substantial experience with school carry, and all of these inflammatory arguments have been proved false. The Crime Prevention Resource Center is an excellent resource on this issue.
What teachers need to know is how to shoot straight, and when to shoot. Police officers are comprehensively trained because of the requirements of their jobs. Their firearm training is only a small portion of their overall training, and as I’ve often written, most police officers are far from expert shooters. Far more citizens take the time and money to become competent shooters, and every firearm teacher knows many women are excellent students, usually having none of the preconceptions and bad habits of men. Teachers carrying concealed do not despoil a mystical educational environment. Done properly, no one will ever know they are carrying, their attention is not diverted, and if an attack occurs, they, their students, and the parents of their students, will be very glad indeed they took a few seconds away from lessons to keep everyone alive. Should no attack ever occur, the school environment remains unsullied. Naysayers might want to focus on what kind of environment will obtain after an attack. That environment will be very different if many teachers and kids are killed, as opposed to the death of an attacker before they could harm anyone.
As I’ve previously written, the good news is school attacks, at K-12 schools or colleges, remain rare. The bad news is at most American schools, there is no deterrence, nothing stopping an attack, and the odds always fall against someone, somewhere.
Banzhaf’s suggestions are not without merit, but we must understand only one policy, regardless of efforts to harden a given school, can deter and stop attacks. Anyone not advocating that policy, first and foremost, is willing to accept some unknown number of wounded and dead if and when an attack occurs. That’s a high cost for virtue signaling.