As an educator, I deal with colleagues who recoil at the idea of armed police officers in school, as though the mere presence of authority, particularly armed authority, somehow poisons a mystically pristine educational atmosphere. I have heard others argue that teachers are untrained and unqualified to carry firearms, and as such would be tempted to misuse them, or would be more likely to harm themselves, or others, or to be shot by the police in a school attack. I have heard some argue that students will steal teachers’ guns.
However, the most fervent argument I’ve encountered — and only after the Newtown shooting — suggests that teachers must focus 100% of their energy and attention exclusively on teaching. Therefore, they cannot be expected to assume the same duties as school liaison officers, including engaging and stopping school shooters.
Some have gone so far as to suggest that teachers would be particularly bad at even recognizing that a shooting was happening, so oblivious to their surroundings does teaching make them.
This misconception is a related to the idea that anyone carrying a gun on school grounds must be trained to the same level — and must assume the same focus and duties — as a certified police officer, or else they are a tragedy waiting to happen.
No. Armed school staff should have precisely the same duties and responsibilities as any citizen with a concealed carry permit.
They are responsible for keeping their weapon safe, secure, and concealed, and on their person at all times. A handgun locked in a desk or in an armory in a principal’s office suite is of no use to a teacher meeting an armed killer in a hallway or on a playground.
Above all, they will know to use their handgun only in circumstances where it is necessary to stop the imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death to themselves or others. And that is all.
Police officers undergo lengthy and rigorous training because their jobs encompass far more than this simple directive, whereas armed citizens and teachers need know only two primary things: the law relating to the possession and use of deadly force, and how to shoot straight.
Additional training along these lines is desirable, but if required, will prevent some teachers from being able to save their lives and the lives of students.
The entry qualification should be precisely the same as for any concealed carry license holder. Teachers should in fact be already almost entirely qualified, for like license holders, they have been fingerprinted, photographed, and undergone extensive background checks.
Unlike license holders, they must have at minimum a bachelor’s degree, and must undergo additional extensive testing. The only qualification most teachers lack would be any state-required training course or shooting qualification.
A cornerstone of this policy must be correct publicity. Making the public aware a given school district allows and encourages its staff to carry concealed weapons confers on every school, whether anyone is carrying or not, the benefits of deterrence.
Properly chosen by and for individuals, concealed handguns are quite invisible: this is another strength of concealed carry. Because no criminal can know who is carrying a handgun, they must assume that everyone could be. Just about anywhere in America except schools, this is also the case.
Consider the cognitive dissonance of those who argue that teachers can’t be expected to take extra time to qualify for concealed carry: recall that they already spend hours on “run and hide” drills, hiding students behind locked and easily breached doors to fearfully wait and hope that a killer will not find them. This dependence on the lack of competence and marksmanship of madmen (as well as their mercy) is not a strategy.
Consider too those who argue that teachers aren’t smart enough to understand what is happening, and will thereby shoot innocents. When a school attack occurs, and this was very much the case at Sandy Hook Elementary, the victims knew exactly what was going on. When the killer was shooting his way into the school, if one or more staff had been armed he could have been immediately stopped. No one had to die that day; no one has to die in any school.