Saturday, August 11, 2007

Arming Teachers

It was during the Columbine aftermath that I first heard the proposal to arm teachers. Back then I thought it was nuts, but I've since changed my mind. All the problems I saw with the proposal have been answered to my satisfaction in the following two links.

First: a Nevada proposal to allow teachers to attend a law enforcement academy and become reserve police officers in a school district police force.

To become reserve campus police officers, teachers would have to pass a physical and psychological evaluation, as well as a comprehensive background check. Those who make it through the selection process would have to pay about $1,190 for classes at the community college’s Law Enforcement Training Academy, including “Firearms I & II” “Defensive Tactics/Physical Training” and “Introduction to Juvenile Justice.” An additional $1,000 would be required for the academy uniforms and equipment.

After completing the training, teachers would be responsible for $1,500 in uniform and equipment costs, although their guns would be provided by the school police department. School districts would then have to pay the auxiliary officers $3,000 annually.

This is good. This makes sure that armed teachers would have the same training as police officers; I don't think we'd have to worry about a teacher's shooting a student who won't quit talking in class.

Additionally, these teachers would not have to announce that they're reserve officers with firearms, so there would be no concern about their being targeted either by students or other bad guys who show up on campus.

Second: there's the issue of where to keep the authorized firearm. Here's an excellent solution:

There is no potential danger to having firearms in the classroom that cannot be solved with a practical solution. The danger of a student wresting the firearm away from the teacher can be absolved by employing a lockbox with a quick-access keypad; keeping the weapon secure but still rapidly accessible.

The lockbox can be in a closet, out of sight but easily accessible.

The idea here isn't to have trigger-happy teachers go blazing into a gunfight with intruders. The idea is to have some weaponry and personnel available who can respond to a crisis immediately, and perhaps even stand down when regular law enforcement arrives. If nothing else, these teachers would be able to protect their students and themselves by keeping bad guys at bay.

As I said, I've changed my mind on this topic, as I have about firearms topics in general. The Nevada proposal seems reasonable to me, while still keeping our schools from being armed camps.

A silly proposal is this one: bulletproof backpacks. The backpack would have to stop every bullet, the attacker only has to draw blood once. Honestly, I'd rather have a few armed teachers.

Yes, I'd volunteer to undergo this training if it were ever to occur in California. Yeah, like that would ever happen anyway.


Tony said...

As much as I may have reservations to deliberately putting firearms in the classroom, this proposal sounds well thought out and might be the best solution to an increasingly common threat.

Mike said...

Glad to have you on the side of rationality. While the Nevada proposal is better than nothing, it has serious drawbacks. I speak as a English teacher, but an English teacher who is a military veteran, a veteran of nearly two decades of civilian police service including SWAT service, and a firearms instructor certified in all classes of small arms.

While allowing those teachers who wish to carry concealed weapons in schools is entirely rational, requiring that they become police officers or undergo much of the same training police officers must experience is irrational. While the training suggested in the Nevada proposal is only a portion of that required for a full time, fully certified officer, it is unnecessarily costly, time consuming, and excessive for the narrow purposes for which teachers need to carry.

The true model should be the concealed carry laws that more than 40 states now have on the books. Most require extensive background checks, including fingerprints and photographs, and are in fact more stringent than such checks commonly required for teacher certification. Such laws also require training in the applicable laws and in firearm handling and safety and culminate with the applicant firing a qualifying score. These laws would be a starting point.

But first, why should a teacher carry a concealed handgun? What's the point? I've written a longer article or two on this, which I'd be willing to share with you and your readers if you'd like, but it basically comes down to the fact that when the worst case scenario comes to pass, when an armed madman or terrorist has entered a school intent on murder, no one is in a better position to stop that killer, then and there, than an armed teacher. Liaison officers may or may not be on campus, or in a part of the building where they can even hear gunshots. Officers on patrol, particularly on the day shift, are few and many teachers and students will die before even the first responding officer can arrive in the school parking lot, let alone locate the killer or killers and mount an effective counter attack. Armed principals? Same problem with liaison officers. Full time security guards? Same problem. If we refuse to arm those willing and able to assume the responsibility, what we're really doing is making a bet on how many will die, how many will be "acceptable" casualties before the authorities, who have no legal responsibility to provide personal protection for any individual citizen, can arrive and act.

The primary reason for any teacher to carry is not to serve as a police officer. In fact, a teacher carrying a handgun should engage in no activities other than those they already deal with on a daily basis, except one: They must stand ready to protect lives or prevent imminent, serious bodily harm. Other than those kinds of circumstances, they should never draw or reveal their weapons. They are there for last resort, worst case scenarios, and nothing else. Giving one the title, after cursory training, as a reserve police officer does not make one a police officer. The public generally fails to understand the police work is highly complex, dangerous and demanding. It requires constant training and learning. Wearing a badge and gun does not a police officer make. Reserve officers often work with full time officers, but under their strict, eyes-on-their-body-at-all-times supervision only.

So what kind of training is required? Again, concealed weapons certification is a good starting point. After all, if I as a teacher am certified to carry concealed, why does that right end when I step onto school property? Is there something mysterious about school property that immediately deranges the otherwise competent and sane? How is it that they recover their sanity when they again step off school property? Teachers must also undergo training, which should be refreshed and updated at reasonable, regular intervals, in:

(1) Choice of proper weapons and calibers. Generally speaking, .380 should be the smallest caliber allowed, and firearms should be limited to those that can be properly concealed. No 8" barrel .44 magnum revolvers. This might be addressed legislatively, but one should resist the urge to mandate a one-size-fits-all gun and cartridge. Such policies please gun and ammo manufacturers, but don't help real people with real differences. Examples of good weapons for this purpose might be the Walther PPK in .380, the Glock 26 in 9mm, and a variety of similarly sized weapons by a variety of other manufacturers.

(2) Proper methods of concealment. One of the greatest benefits of this policy is secured if a school district advertises that teachers and principals are allowed to carry concealed, but refuses to publicize who, where or how many. Even if a given school has no one on campus carrying a concealed weapon, that school retains the same ability to deter aggression as a school where many are armed. If you were a bad guy who wanted to shoot up a school and discovered that District A allows concealed carry, but District B next door did not, where would you be most likely to attack? Therefore, part of the effectiveness of this program hinges on no one knowing who is carrying. Proper handgun choice and concealment deal with this.

(3) Handgun retention techniques. No one can try to take a handgun they don't know exists, but for worst case scenarios, this is the cure.

(4) Tactical training. This must include actual exercises relating to movement, concealment (of people), cover, using distractions, and should take place in actual school buildings at the appropriate times. This would also include such topics as when to draw and when to shoot and more importantly, when not to do either.

(5) Frequent live fire training and certification. Shooting is a perishable skill. Shooting in school surroundings requires knowledge, coolness and accuracy and practice using realistic scenarios and targets.

(6) Mental preparedness. No one should ever be required to carry a handgun, and everyone who does must be exposed to the intellectual and emotional issues. When presented with a deadly situation, some hesitation is normal. But if one can't say with certainty, to themselves and others, that they are willing and ready to use deadly force if required, they must not be put in that situation.

(7) The law of deadly force. Much of this is covered in certification classes for concealed weapons, but should be more in depth for teachers.

As to your suggestion of lockboxes. Such a policy assumes that a teacher will have the opportunity to get to that lockbox and that, under life-threatening stress, they'll be able to quickly open it, particularly if they put their handgun in it at the beginning of the year and remove it at the end. Remember that the strength of this policy, when the worst case scenario occurs, is that there will be teachers who, then and there, can immediately respond and in responding, save lives. A handgun in a lockbox in an office or classroom closet will be of little use to a gym teacher on a softball field, an English teacher in a computer lab, a history teacher whose class is on a field trip or in the library, or a teacher who sees an armed intruder entering the school while on their way to or from lunch, the office, or a bathroom.

Carrying a concealed weapon is a significant responsibility. One doing so must always keep their weapon on their person, completely concealed, chambered and ready to fire, and in top working order. They must be intimately familiar with it, comfortable with it and absolutely confident in their ability to use it properly. Anything else is unacceptable, dangerous, and in opposition to the reasons why it's wise for teachers to carry in the first place..

And "bulletproof" backpacks? Manufacturers refer to their products as "bullet resistant"--there is no such thing as :bullet proof"--and label them according to specific standards, certifying them as capable of stopping specific calibers of ammunition. Police officers who daily wear vests know that they are, at best, a tradeoff in protection, and that their effectiveness lies in that they are always worn and cover the vital organs of the torso from the waist up. The idea of having a backpack that one could suddenly jerk into the line of fire is nonsensical at best.

I'm afraid, Darren, you're absolutely right about one thing, we'll see flying pigs before California ever allows this sort of thing. Hell, they don't even allow concealed carry, unless you're a celebrity or political contributor to certain mayors or sheriffs. But you need not worry about schools becoming armed camps. And fortunately, for the deterrant effect to be useful, that's not at all necessary. But wouldn't it be nice to know that in each and every hallway of a school that there was at least one teacher, properly trained and prepared to save lives if and when the worst case scenario came to pass? As always, we train for the worst and hope for the best.

Darren said...

You provide a wealth of practical information, for which I thank you.

I don't think any teacher, especially a PE coach out on the field, could keep a firearm concealed on his/her person for very long at all. That's why I agreed with the idea of having a lockbox concealed in the classroom.

I like Nevada's training proposals if for no other reason than CYA, to ensure that the teacher is as fully trained as is practical in when and how he/she can legally use the firearm provided by the law enforcement agency.

Mike said...


Thanks. But a gym coach would be among those most easily able to conceal an appropriate handgun, having the freedom to wear a wide variety of loose fitting garments. Any teacher carrying a handgun would have to make adjustments to their wardrobe and to their habits, but it is surprisingly easy to conceal even large firearms.

During my final police assignment as a detective, I wore suits and sport coats and carried a full sized Glock handgun. Even so prosecutors, secretaries and others were always asking me if I forgot my handgun, because they couldn't see it at all under a sportcoat and couldn't see it if I wasn't wearing a sportcoat unless I turned my back to them. I merely chose a close fitting holster and wore it to the back of my right hip in the hollow.

One of the most common demonstrations for new police recruits is for someone to walk into the room wearing a common suit or street clothing and proceed to unload an entire boxload of handguns, knives, hatchets, and various similar implements. This teaches them to be careful. Concealment isn't hard if approached properly, but is also requires changes in lifestyle. Coaches carrying guns can't roughhouse with students or allow them to roughhouse with them.

My point regarding the Nevada proposal is to teach teachers only what they need to know, not what a semi-cop needs to know. While the latter might be a financial boon for community colleges, it's unnecessary and confusing for teachers, who don't need to know the laws and procedures of arrest, pursuit driving, physical control tactics, radio procedures, criminal laws, traffic laws, and a variety of other minutia.

Remember, armed teachers should reveal and use their weapons only when there exists the imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to themselves or others. Absent that, they are no different than unarmed teachers, and certainly are not pseudo-police. Any rational person who goes about armed knows that carrying a weapon confers upon them the responsibility to go out of their way, in a manner than the unarmed need not, to avoid any potentially deadly situation. We carry because we recognize the potential danger, not because we wish to seek it out and/or embrace it.

Darren said...

I see huge potential legal issues, though, with *not* making armed teachers reserve police officers, with the necessary training that entails. I didn't get the idea that the Nevada law would require instruction in high-speed chases or in arrests; in fact, I would think that armed teachers would stand down, except in a defensive capacity, the moment the "real" law showed up.

Still, I think it better to err on the side of more instruction rather than less instruction when you're arming teachers.

And I agree with you completely: no one should even know a teacher is packing, or even has access to a firearm, until there's a real need for that teacher potentially to draw it.

rightwingprof said...

I was always armed on campus, though few knew it (as the man says, suits and sportcoats). I wasn't armed because I felt threatened. I was armed because I always am.

No, I have never pulled my Glock out of my holster, save at the range, nor have I ever flipped out and shot a room full of students. I have been tempted, of course, to use the Glock at a number of pointless faculty meetings, but thinking about it and doing it are two different things.

Anonymous said...

I too would volunteer for this training. But, lets be honest, when we admin to needing armed teachers and bulletproof backpacks then we need to admit that its time to trash the entire public school system and give students vouchers.

MikeAT said...

“It was during the Columbine aftermath that I first heard the proposal to arm teachers. Back then I thought it was nuts, but I've since changed my mind. All the problems I saw with the proposal have been answered to my satisfaction in the following two links.”

As I’ve said Darren, I’ll get you in the NRA one of these days! :)

Mike, first off, good name!

Second, you’re steel on target on the police academy portion of the bill. That is a little overkill. Concealed carry would be much more logical (which makes it much more unlikely to get passed…we are dealing with politicians here!)

Three, I think the lockbox is a bad idea. It reminds me of many a movie where the cop approaches a scene, pulls out his automatic pistol and then charges a round into the chamber. No, if something like this is going to happen it will happen fairly fast (if you haven’t seen it National Geographic TV had an excellent special on the Columbine shooting). I agree Mike teaching someone how to conceal a weapon would be much easier.

“So what kind of training is required? Again, concealed weapons certification is a good starting point. After all, if I as a teacher am certified to carry concealed, why does that right end when I step onto school property? Is there something mysterious about school property that immediately deranges the otherwise competent and sane? How is it that they recover their sanity when they again step off school property? Teachers must also undergo training, which should be refreshed and updated at reasonable, regular intervals, in:”

Mike you missing the point, the schools are “Gun Free Zones”. Remember all these politicians passed laws we know the crooks are scared of. I mean look how well they worked in Columbine or outside Washington with the turnpike shooters. Again, the question has to be asked of Diane Feinstein et all, “If all that is needed to secure our kids is a sign saying “Gun Free Zone” why don’t they have the same thing in the Capital and get rid of the police there?” I think we all know the answer.

Finally one thing that hasn’t been raised is the question of civil liability. I’ve been a cop for almost ten years and my union has five attorneys on staff whose greatest responsibility is to get a call at 0300hrs after a shooting and make the scene so the city and county don’t try to make me the bad guy (not that the city would ever try and screw over a cop now would they!). The teacher’s unions legal staff will have to work into this matter and instruct armed teachers what to do if there is a shooting (i.e. shut up, call your attorney, let him do the talking because the gutless school staff will want to hang you out to dry.)

OTS Mike, where were you a cop? I’m in Houston and I’ve got a high school friend in Los Angles SO. We exchange emails over how different policing in CA and TX are.

sailorman said...

The issue is similar to the issue surrounding police.

1) Police are a necessary and important component of our society; they provide a valuable and irreplaceable public service; they should be respected for that.

2) Police have authority; they can (and often are) scary and/or intimidating; they boss people around; they occasionally hurt others; they generally demand respect; they wear (sometimes) shiny boots; they are feared by illegal immigrants and often my minorities; they have little oversight; they have guns; they occasionally shoot people.

Some people want to become cops for reason #1. That's a good thing.

Some people want to become cops for reason #2. That's a bad thing.

Same here: I'd be happy if the only teachers who got guns were those who felt regretfully compelled to use their training in these fractious times, to protect their kids.

But you and I both know that some of the teachers who get guns will just, um, "like guns." Or want the $3k/year. Or want to wear a badge. Or have watched too many episodes of Die Hard.

If there were a way to get only the first group, I'd be happier.

Darren said...

I agree. However, I'd like to think that the extensive training and up-front cost would keep out many of those who aren't the #1's.

And remember, these teachers wouldn't be flashing badges and holding muzzles under students' jaws. The whole idea is that no one would ever know who the reserve officers were and who weren't.

allen said...

> If there were a way to get only the first group, I'd be happier.

The group you're worried about are much less of a consideration then you seem to think.

First, someone who's reckless with firearms, not just "likes guns", quite often have disqualified themselves well ahead of any application for a CCW. Those who get through the relatively cursory background check, which on the evidence filters out the majority of people who shouldn't be carrying a pistol, then are made to be acquainted with the various ways you can screw up while carrying and the rather severe penalties for doing so.

If that isn't enough to settle them down then they'll inevitably do something stupid, hopefully not something deadly, and end up without a CCW and possibly with a felony conviction.

That's a very small percentage of CCW holders. Much less then the percentage of the general population who have a criminal background. The knowledge of the dangers of concealed carry to the CCW holder is such that a not insignificant percentage of people who apply for a CCW never complete the process. There aren't a large number of ways you can screw up carrying a concealed pistol but all of them carry serious consequences to which some people say, "Who needs it?"

Unless you've got any solid information to the contrary I don't believe teachers are any more likely then any other CCW holder to act in an irresponsible or reckless manner.

MikeAT said...


One thing to add. As Concealed Carry Permits were becoming more popular in the early 1990s, the “usual suspects” were concerned about people shooting everyone in a bar, etc. As I recall we have 40 states with some kind of CCPs.

I don’t recall any CCP holders walking into a school and shooting up the place (although Postal Workers got a bad rep in the early 1990s). God knows if there was one, the usual suspects would be screaming about it. But we know they wouldn’t give up their guns. Ask the late Carl Rowan about that.

For those of you not alive/aware in the late 1980, Rowan was a liberal columnist for the Washington Post. In June 1988 he wrote a vicious editorial on why only cops and military should have guns. Two weeks later he shoots a young man in his pool who climbed over his fence and went swimming.

Mike said...

Well now. Recognizing and effectively addressing the potential for danger in a school setting is hardly an argument for the closing of public schools or for school vouchers. This is particularly true when we realize that attacking schools is a tactic used by Islamic terrorists since at least the 70's. It stopped completely in Israel when teachers started carrying handguns, submachineguns and true assault rifles.
But American schools remain soft and inviting targets.

Liability issues? Address them through the passage of good samaritan laws by individual state legislatures conferring immunity from prosecution and lawsuits to teachers when acting in good faith to save lives.

Substantial research on concealed weapon permit holders has been done in virtually every CCW state, often by those who wish to prove them dangerous. To their chagrin, the evidence is clear: CCW holders are uncommonly law abiding, far more so than the general public, and only a tiny percentage--commonly less than 1%--of all CCW holders have their permits revoked, most for minor, technical violations of the law such as accidently carrying their weapon into a prohibited area with no intent to do wrong.

Those few who want to carry a gun to carry a gun will do exactly what they should not early on: expose themselves as a teacher carrying a gun, and can easily be weeded out. We should not impose onerous and unnecessary fees and training requirements on teachers. The Nevada program, for example, seems to require substantial money for uniforms and equipment. For a program where the last thing we want is for teachers to wear uniforms and equipment that would identify them as carrying a concealed weapon? Only a bureaucrat/politician could dream that one up.

In short, a CCW program for teachers has no real downside and the potential to save lives when, not if, the worst case scenario happens. No other policy has that potential.

ATTENTION Darren: If you'd like to give my e-mail address to 'Mikeat," so that we could correspond, you have my permission. Thanks!

Darren said...

Depends on which Mike you are. Genghis?

Mike said...


"Mike" vmms...

Darren said...


allen said...

Well I remember the "Cowboy" Carl Rowan episode.

For anyone who's interested, Carl Rowan was a bitterly anti-gun columnist with the Washington Post. A real absolutist. No guns, no way, no how, for no reason, give 'em up Mr. and Mrs. America and right the hell now.

Some drunk college kid hopped Rowan's fence to take a late-night dip in the pool. Rowan comes out of his house with a .22, which he later rather lamely claimed belonged to his son, an FBI agent, and puts a round through the kid's wrist.

Turns out Rowan was prosecuted but the DA didn't refile after a hung jury:

With regard to the hysteria that attends the, you should pardon the expression, liberalization of concealed carry law, we here in Michigan stand second to none. We had the usual acres of editorials painting lurid pictures of gun-fights over blue-light specials at K-mart and parking lot shoot-outs over desirable parking slots.

When the enactment of shall-issue resulted in not the sound of gun fire but the sound of crickets a couple of the more honest anti's grudgingly admitted that, maybe, it wasn't that bad and maybe they were wrong and can we talk about something else?

Finally, if *I* were in charge, at least in charge of laying out requirements to obtain a CCW I'd put very little emphasis on safe gun handling, defensive techniques or any of that other gun-nut stuff. No caliber wars or auto-vs-revolver nonsense.

I'd put the bulk of the training time into making each prospective CCW holder a fount of knowledge on all the legal aspects of concealed carry. How you can do everything right and still end up wishing you'd never been born or do anything wrong and may God have mercy on your soul.

Knowing what you're letting yourself in for by obtaining a CCW is quite sobering and any responsible adult won't have to be told to get training to, at least, know how to handle their firearm safely.

MikeAT said...

"ATTENTION Darren: If you'd like to give my e-mail address to 'Mikeat," so that we could correspond, you have my permission. Thanks!"

Darren, I think he means me...please give him my email.