Armed Teachers: Riskier Than Other Armed Citizens?
Attorney Shane F. Krauser recently posted an op-ed on the Fox News site titled “Arming untrained teachers puts our kids at greater risk.” His underlying thesis -- adequate training -- isn’t inherently unreasonable, but, like too many, he misunderstands the dynamics involved. He writes:
In the wake of this tragedy, there is growing support among Second Amendment advocates for arming teachers with guns. Nothing could be more important than making sure the people who defend our children are adequately trained to do so. The sentiment is understandable.
Columbine, Virginia Tech and now Newtown are all stark reminders of the havoc that can be wreaked by evil people with guns.
However, the overly simplistic proposal to arm all teachers is a knee-jerk reaction of monumental proportions that could ultimately hurt their cause. To say that it is not well thought out would be a gross understatement.
Krauser gives due deference to the unalienable American right to self-defense, and reasonably notes:
Nothing could be more important than making sure the people who defend our children are adequately trained to do so.
Many assume that learning the skill of armed defense is simply a matter of taking a position on the firing line at the local range and shooting tight groups at a non-moving target.
While range exercise is important to becoming proficient with a firearm, it does not adequately prepare one for real confrontation.
Make no mistake about it: A teacher who is placed in a position of defending others will step into a foreign world of armed confrontation where unforgiving bullets fly.
Armed conflict causes an adrenaline effect, which influences a person’s ability to mount a real and effective defense. When a person assumes a defensive posture, the natural physiological and mental reactions change the playing field in significant ways. These reactions include tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, heavy breathing, increased heart rate, profuse sweating, time dilation and the unexpected release of urine and defecation from the body.
Most people have not been trained to deal with these natural reactions. As a result, individuals who may be justified in using lethal force become incredibly dangerous to themselves and others.
Only intense and consistent training can address this issue.
Krauser claims to support arming teachers, but his recommendations argue against it. In fact, they argue against arming any citizen:
Experience demonstrates the way to stop violence is with countervailing force. However, an effective trained response takes serious time, money and resources to create. This responsibility must not be taken lightly.
Law enforcement agencies and the U.S. military allocate significant resources to train their people to defend their country, their communities, their teammates and themselves. In the heated debate over defense and gun laws in recent months, we have overlooked this important fact.
I have no doubt that Krauser is well-intentioned, and take him at his word that he is not opposed to armed teachers, however he assumes facts not in evidence -- including the idea that those advocating the arming of school staff, as I recently have at PJ Media, want every teacher to be armed, even against their will. Not so.
Krauser is correct about the effect of adrenaline in dangerous confrontations, but he draws the wrong conclusions. The elitist argument that only the most extensively -- and continually -- trained should be allowed the most effective means of self-defense necessarily gives to government the exclusive power to be the gatekeeper of self-defense. In such a system, there is no unalienable right to keep and bear arms, no right to self-defense. There is only a government-regulated privilege.
The argument that government-mandated and regulated training is necessary because “it’s for the children” is equally specious. Krauser refers to the police and military, implying that their initial and continuous training allows them to overcome and master human responses to fear and danger. This is incorrect. Regardless of the training one obtains and the diligence with which they maintain it, the same fight or flight responses always exist.
The overwhelming majority of police officers never fire their weapons in anger. Many will repeatedly find themselves in great potential danger and it is that repetition, more than training, that will allow them to recognize and deal with their physiological responses to danger. In effect, police officers never cease feeling fear -- they are just scared so often, and the best learn how to deal with it in non-debilitating ways. Training helps, but only experience truly teaches. The same is true for soldiers, most of whom will never be in active combat where the issues police officers might face for a few minutes once in a career might be spread over many battles lasting hours or days.
It may surprise some, but human beings rise to the occasion -- regardless of fear. Even the untrained are capable of successfully defending their lives and the lives of those they love.
The fact is that comparing the experience of the police and military, and their training requirements, to teachers is not comparing apples and oranges, but apples and elephants. The police and military have complex, multi-faceted jobs that require a wide variety of specific skills. These, and changes in law, technology, and tactics, are the reasons for their lengthy and focused -- as well as regularly updated -- training.
But even that does not always suffice.
In the 2010 Jose Guerena case in Tucson, an interagency SWAT team -- supposedly the best of the best and the most highly trained -- fired 71 rounds into Guerena’s home. They perforated his home from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, hit several nearby homes, and hit Guerena only 22 times despite shooting from only about 10 feet away. Guerena, a Marine veteran of two combat tours, awakened from a sound sleep by what he felt were criminal intruders breaking down his front door -- they did not have a no-knock warrant -- and wearing only underwear, hid his wife and son and took up a nearby AR-15 rifle. He never took the weapon off safe, and didn’t fire a single shot.
During the 2013 hunt for rogue ex-cop Christopher Dorner in California, several officers shot up, without provocation, two unarmed women delivering newspapers in a pickup truck that resembled the vehicle reportedly driven by Dorner only in being a pickup. Photographs of the pickup reveal as many as 30 bullet holes. Only the officers' terrible marksmanship allowed the women to survive without life-threatening injuries.
Stories of similar highly and consistently trained police officers are not hard to find. Citizens are not, in fact, uniquely dangerous.
Citizens use firearms successfully as often as 2.5 million times a year to protect their lives and the lives of others, usually without firing a shot. And when they do have to shoot, they often do so better than the police, as in the recent case of the Georgia woman that shot a burglar in her home five times, saving her life and the lives of her two children.
Teachers should not be required to be armed against their will -- but there is no shortage of the willing. At a recent free handgun class in North Texas, conceived by Navy SEAL Chris Kyle before his death, more than 700 teachers attended. They recognized the potential danger -- and their responsibility.
Teachers, like any other citizen, need only a limited number of very specific skills: the ability to safely handle their chosen handgun (commonly known as the manual of arms); knowledge of the laws governing deadly force and concealed carry; knowledge of the methods of concealed carry; and the ability to shoot straight. Concealed-carry licensing requirements for many states include all of this information, though some states do not, and those states do not suffer an increased level of mistaken shootings by citizens.
Anyone that regularly carries a concealed weapon absolutely should take advantage of as much competent training as they can obtain and afford. They should regularly practice with their handgun, in dry and live fire. They should continually work to develop and enhance their situational awareness -- their heightened awareness of the world around them. But all of this need not be costly or take enormous amounts of time, and it must not be a bar to carrying a handgun in the first place.
Involving the government in the application of a fundamental human right never enhances freedom or safety. Such involvement inevitably leads to “one size fits all” mandates, such as requiring only a single make and model of handgun -- greatly limiting concealability for many -- and establishing prohibitive time and cost barriers to the exercise of fundamental freedoms. Teachers are more than intelligent enough to choose appropriate, effective, and concealable handguns, and to carry and use them properly. Millions of less-educated citizens do as much every day without expensive and time-consuming governmental mandates.
Krauser is correct in advocating good training, but the threat of school attacks never diminishes. If we truly want to protect children, we can’t require unrealistic and unnecessary training, and we must take advantage of those in the best position to protect them: teachers.