Unarmed teachers and our addiction to failure
The Newtown shooting, and all the school shootings that preceded it, validated the beliefs of those who oppose armed teachers. The absence of armed teachers actually saved lives. Sure, brutal cowards massacred dozens of people. Sure, the victims had no defense whatsoever against heavily armed madmen. Sure, innocents died in helpless terror as murderers fired multiple bullets into them.
But at least there were no armed teachers there to “add to the carnage”. Who knows how much worse those tragedies would have been if a teacher had shot back? Thank God, nobody resisted. When a murderous coward is shooting dozens of innocent children, the best thing to do is to let him keep doing it until police arrive. ALLOWING TWENTY-SIX CHILDREN AND TEACHERS TO BE BRUTALLY MURDERED IS BETTER THAN LETTING EVEN ONE TEACHER SHOOT BACK.
In case you didn’t catch it, I’m being sarcastic.
Let’s make something clear. NOBODY is proposing that we “arm teachers” against their will. This was obvious from day one of the debate, but the narrative seemed to be “those pro-gun idiots want to force teachers to carry weapons in schools”. Whether this “misunderstanding” of the proposal was an honest mistake, or an intentional effort to (again) discredit and smear gun rights advocates, is anyone’s guess.
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, in an article titled Teacher Union President: plan to arm teachers ‘dangerous, irresponsible’, said, “. . . the NRA is rushing to arm teachers and rushing to arm schools. . . We actually need to make kids safer. We actually need to take guns away from kids.”
This is an amazing statement from someone who should know better. Rather than “rushing to arm teachers”, the NRA wants armed guards in schools, which isn’t the best option but is still better than nothing. And their plan would in fact make kids safer. Laws that already ban murderers from carrying guns into schools obviously aren’t working.
What has been proposed is allowing teachers to carry weapons in schools if they choose, are eligible and pass required qualification courses. A school that allows teachers to carry wouldn’t look any different than others, except for maybe having a sign advertising “Teachers in this school may be armed”. Just as potential airplane hijackers have to factor in the possibility of being shot by a Federal Air Marshal, an aspiring mass murderer would have to factor in the possibility of encountering multiple armed teachers.
Allowing teachers to carry isn’t an amazing or revolutionary idea. Nor is it the lunacy that some people, many of whom probably have little to no experience with guns and violence, claim it to be. As a longtime cop and former Active Shooter instructor who trained officers how to respond to mass shootings, I’m pretty familiar with the school shooting problem. As far as I’m concerned, armed teachers are the only realistic solution.
As I mentioned before, some have proposed putting armed guards or more police officers on campus, and that’s definitely better than nothing. But we’d still face the problem of not enough guards, not in the right place, not at the right time. Many modern high schools are about the size of an Afghan village, with ten times the population. The likelihood that an armed guard would happen to be right where a shooter begins his attack are pretty low. Most school shooters weren’t stupid; they would probably have selected an area without visible armed security anyway.
The high school my daughter attended is huge, with several buildings, activities halls and athletic fields. The student population is around 4000. If I and another police officer were in the main parking lot and received a call that an active shooter was inside, there would still be a built-in response time. If he was in an easily accessible, known location like the cafeteria, we could probably get there in a minute or two; but if he was, for example, “near classroom A217, second floor of the east wing of building C, heading north to the stairwell”, who knows how long it would take us to reach him and stop the killing.
Uniformed police or armed security guards can’t be everywhere. An attack that begins in an area without an armed guard present can go on for several minutes before police arrive. Believe me, “several minutes” is a long time when someone’s shooting at you. Even in the best case scenario, if my partner and I take only a minute to find and neutralize the shooter, he still has sixty seconds to spray helpless students with gunfire. This doesn’t sound acceptable to me.
Teacher Federation President Weingarten also said, in the same interview, “In Columbine there was an armed guard, it didn’t help. In Virginia Tech there were armed guards across the campus, it didn’t help”. On these points, she was right (thank you for making my point for me, Ms. Weingarten). A school resource officer was on the Columbine High School campus when the shooting started, and did briefly exchange gunfire with one shooter outside the school.
However, when the shooter fled into the school, the officer didn’t follow. This wasn’t because the officer experienced a failure of will; rather, previous training dictated that he should “back off, set up a perimeter and call SWAT”. The officer followed that training, which hindsight showed was exactly the wrong thing to do.
Once the shooters entered the school, they were completely unopposed. They had free rein to do whatever they wished, with no worry whatsoever about armed resistance. They even took water breaks. Had armed teachers been inside Columbine High School, circumstances would have been very different.
At Virginia Tech, numerous police officers from two agencies were already on campus when the massacre began. They were there because Seung-Hui Cho, the murderer, first killed two students about two hours before the killing spree at Norris Hall. With police already on campus, and a response time of three minutes to reach Norris Hall, Cho still managed to kill thirty students and teachers before police entered the building (I should point out that I also support concealed carry on college campuses). So Weingarten was correct, armed security or police on campus may not be able to stop a massacre.
However, armed teachers CAN stop a massacre. This isn’t because teachers are tactical geniuses with years of gunfighting experience; it’s because armed teachers would be there, when the killing starts, with means and motivation to do something about it. There is no built-in lag time for a teacher response, as there is for police response. Teachers are, at worst, yards away. And even if a teacher would never hurt a fly in self-defense, I have a hard time believing they wouldn’t act to defend their students.
This isn’t to say a teacher (or cop, or firearms instructor, or Navy SEAL) would have an easy time stopping an active shooter. A mass school shooting is just about the worst nightmare scenario any of us could ever face, and handling it properly wouldn’t be easy. Because of this reality, reasonable people often say, “in a situation like that, with innocent people running in panic everywhere, a teacher would just shoot the wrong person”.
Maybe so. But in an active shooter situation, a murderer is killing innocent people. A teacher might kill an innocent person. It’s not better to just let the murderer keep shooting people. And while a teacher may encounter mass chaos that nobody could effectively respond to, I’d like you to consider this more likely situation:
Teacher is in his/her classroom. Teacher hears shots. Teacher looks into the hall and sees students fleeing in terror, with a man firing a weapon behind them. Teacher closes door and orders students into the safest part of the room. Teacher draws a weapon from under his/her jacket and covers the door from ten feet away. Shooter opens door. Teacher empties a magazine into shooter from close range. Massacre has been stopped.
Before anyone accuses me of engineering a hypothetical just to prove my point, please read about Professor Liviu Librescu. He was shot and killed while holding his classroom door closed in Norris Hall, trying to keep Seung-Hui Cho out. And read about a teacher named Jocelyne Couture-Nowak. She and a student died while trying, and failing, to barricade a door that Cho eventually forced his way through. And read about the two teachers in the Columbine High School library. They had plenty of advance warning, but could do nothing except hide and call the police as the two shooters entered. Imagine how differently the two massacres might have ended if those teachers had stood by the doors with weapons to defend their students.
Those who oppose armed teachers seem to have apocalyptic visions of untrained educators firing blindly at hulking, armored, machine-gun-toting monsters surrounded by innocent children. They don’t imagine a teacher carefully returning fire at a childish coward who has no skill or training, which is what most mass shooters truly are. They imagine armed teachers to be a group of old, overweight wanna-be’s who look more like Keystone Kops than Special Forces. But they don’t imagine a teacher locking down her classroom just like an unarmed teacher would, but now resolutely standing by the door, ready to fire on the shooter if he enters. They don’t picture the brave assistant principal in Pearl, Mississippi who confronted and detained a mass shooter, without firing even one round. Apparently, opponents of armed teachers don’t picture anything that doesn’t support their viewpoint.
This so-called “debate” about allowing teachers to carry should be over already. We have, for decades, had laws that prohibit weapons in schools. Those laws worked fine until suicidal, murderous cowards decided they didn’t care about almighty words on paper. Since the Columbine attack, which ushered in the current era of mass school shootings, the prohibition on armed teachers has done nothing but help murderers cause repeated, needless tragedies.
We’ve tried having unarmed teachers; that policy has failed, and failed miserably, in every single instance it’s been tested. Let’s kick our national addiction to failure. Let’s stop doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. From this point on, let’s do what’s right for our children. Let’s allow armed teachers to defend them.
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Tags: active shooter, Adam Lanza, armed teachers, arming teachers, columbine, newtown, sandy hook, school shootings, virginia tech