Let’s discuss the practical aspects of the idea being floated of arming teachers.
I’m basing this on my limited experience having some training in close quarters battle, utilizing it, and training both domestic (including SWAT teams) and foreign forces in the various techniques. There are others who are much more experienced and who have explored the matter in more detail and they can chime in. I’m just spitballing off the top of my head here:
There are 3.2 million public school teachers in the United States. Probably a few more in the private sector. So that’s 3.2 million more guns into circulation. I’m trying to remember but I think it took the Army a while to roll out the Beretta when it replaced the M1911 and the initial order was for 315,930 pistols at a cost of $75 million in 1985 dollars. That’s not including ammunition, holsters, training, etc.
How will the guns be accounted for? I assume teachers would not be allowed to take them home as they would be school property. So every school will need an arms room. Someone to man the arms room. And the arms room would have to be highly secure after hours (BTW, what would the hours be given before school and after school activities?). So we need to build arms rooms in every school.
Every teacher would have to sign out their weapon each morning along with ammunition. What kind of weapon? What kind of ammunition (this is important in room clearing in potential hostage situations)? How many magazines? How should the weapon be carried? Last time I was on Fort Campbell, I noticed the MPs had a dummy cord on their pistols. I guess so they wouldn’t misplace them? I think MPs have some training on guns?
This also means they’d have to load their weapons every morning. Will they keep a round in the chamber? While highly trained shooters say their finger is their safety, for most who don’t have that training, it’s an iffy thing. From my experience having witnessed two accidental shootings just in drawing and clearing weapons, we’re going to see a lot of accidental firings. Hopefully every single one of them will miss the other teachers standing in line in a hurry to get to their homeroom or to get home at the end of the day to do all the little pesky things like grade papers and prepare classes and target practice.
So. We arm our teachers and disarm them every single day. We’ve passed that hurdle with definitely some friendly fire casualties, but, hey, our kids are worth it. Hopefully no students are near the arms room while this is going on.
I know someone will raise an alternative that not every teacher needs to be armed. Maybe one in four? Whatever. We can work on the details.
I know, you’re shaking your head going: Bob, we don’t need to do any of that. Just let teachers bring their own guns. Except, hard as it is to believe, most don’t own guns. In some places, like New York City (which has very strict gun laws and unlike the Chicago carnage people like trotting out, had its lowest homicide rate since the 1950s) a gun owning teacher would be very, very rare. Also if teachers bring their own guns we will have a wide array of weapons along with a wide array of ammunition. A little detail is that different weapons and different types of bullets will make a large difference in this scenario. Because one or two shots fired back at a mass shooter will miss. Will they go through sheet-rock walls or glass and hit students hiding in their locked classrooms? There are several distinct classes of pistol ammunition designed for different types of situations.
Those obstacles clear, we now deal with nitty-gritty. How much training should every one of the 3.2 million teachers get? Hard to believe, but there are one or two teachers who’ve never touched a gun, never want to touch a gun, and certainly don’t want to carry them. But as noted, maybe not every teacher needs to carry, although now we’re into tactical territory. It really depends on the school and its layout. There are schools with outlying buildings. Others that are centralized. Big schools, little schools, all sorts. So every school will have to spend time and money coming up with their gun plan, much like they work on their active shooter plan now. Of course, we’d have to completely revamp the active shooter plan because — let’s discuss the realities of an active shooter situation with armed teachers:
The shooter is armed, as most have been, with at least one high-capacity magazine rifle. I dare not call them assault rifles (although that’s what they are) because then people will start discussing whether it has an auto switch (although bump stocks negated that argument). Those weapons take a high velocity round, usually 5.56. Beats 9mm every day. As an aside, I will throw out an idea: let’s publish crime scene photos of the aftermath of these shootings because most people discussing this topic have never seen what 5.56 can do to, let’s say, 20 kindergartners. I think those photos would bring a very much needed dose of reality to the discussion because while we focus on the front end of such an event, we need to see the result. Talk to first responders and trauma units that deal with them about this.
The shooter might also have a back up pistol. A backpack with who knows what in it. There are a lot of variables that the teachers won’t know even while they are shooting back. Also, we’re seeing an uptrend in shooters buying readily available body armor, so as professionals who are experts in room clearing at taught, we’re talking about head shots, which, well aint easy, especially in live fire.
Regardless, in most shootings, the teacher would be outgunned by the bad guy. Most likely out armored.
Which brings me to that. Does the armed teacher lead their kids in run, hide, fight as trained now? But if they’re armed, shouldn’t the teacher immediately go to fight? So the teacher does fight — and either wins or loses. Then who is in charge of the kids? I guess they’re on their own with run, hide, fight, except the teacher controls the key to the classroom. Does the teacher lock the kids in the classroom and run into the hallway, toward the sound of the guns in a Napleonic way with the key and if they lose pistol vs. assault rifle, we’ve just given the shooter access to the classroom? Hard as it is to believe, even well-trained, well-armed, body-armored soldiers hesitate before charging at a shooter. As a young Infantry second lieutenant my first platoon sergeant taught me a valuable lesson from his own combat experience. He said there are two firing positions: the prone, and the flying prone (the latter is when you’re standing and get fired at).
I will note that arming teachers will make schools harder targets. There are many who say criminals seek out gun-free zones. I don’t think that is the case with school shootings. These are usually carried out by students or former students whose focus is the school. And most schools now have an armed presence in the form of a trained LEO. So they aren’t gun free; in fact, unlike many places they have a known armed police presence. But now we’d be making schools gun-heavy. I believe armed teachers might deter somebody who is sane, but given so many people agree that these shooters aren’t sane, I’m not sure we can count on that. I mean, it can’t be both — that they sanely choose only gun free zones but are crazy enough to kill people. Anyway.
Back to our teacher running to the sound of the shooting. Depending on how many teachers are armed, that means all of them should be doing the same. I suppose most proposing this idea envision the bad guy getting riddled by multiple rounds from multiple guns. Sorry to disabuse you of this notion, but those with experience in house to house fighting will beg to differ.
The other big issue is that there will also be a lot of innocent students around. Our crack shot teachers, undeterred by the possibility of getting shot themselves, are going to accurately hit the bad guy in the midst of all of this panic and possible targets? Again, experience says, not likely. Also since teachers are running in from all sorts of directions there is a possibility they will end up shooting each other. Not deliberately, although I’ve heard there are some bitter disputes in faculty lounges, but start thinking about hallways and stairwells and intersections and a bad guy in the midst of that. Some teacher fires off their entire mag from their pistol at the bad guy but there are teachers coming from the other direction doing the same. Even if they hit, bullets have been known to actually go through the body (they are surprisingly soft and gooey) and hit someone on the other side. And one or two bullets might possibly miss.
But here’s a big problem. Arming teachers actually gives students ready access to guns. Say some football player gets pissed off and decides he wants to take Mrs. Smith’s gun and he outweighs her by 100 pounds and jumps her? Now we’ve made our own school shooter who didn’t have to go through the trouble of buying his own gun legally– not much trouble with an AR– and researching Columbine (watch Active Shooter, an excellent series on mass killings–interestingly not a single person interviewed who’d been involved in an active shooting or the aftermath recommended more guns as a solution).
There’s another factor that needs to be addressed. A lot of teachers won’t want to be armed. Do we force them as a requirement of the job? I’d think we’d lose some very good teachers in the process.
My conclusion, leaving aside costs, etc., is that arming teachers will end up killing more teachers and students that mass shooters (even if there is never another mass shooting), just from accidental discharges, stolen guns, suicides, etc.
And frankly, it saddens me greatly to even have to address this topic on a day when children and teachers are being buried in Florida. My thoughts, empathy and actions to them. Those of us who are in the horrible community of parents who have lost a child can tell you it is the worst thing in the world and never ends– for it to happen this way I can only imagine is so much worse. It is not only the immediate victims, but the horror and pain extends to the survivors.
Please note, this article is about one suggestion being discussed. There are effective ways to battle this problem, but I’m only addressing this specific one based on my training and experiences. So if you want to comment, please stay on topic: arming teachers. Good idea, bad idea, why?
Originally published at bobmayer.com on February 19, 2018.