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Santa Fe Shooting: Deploying Conceal and Carry License Holders Is Not Enough to Protect Schools

America sees yet another public school massacre, and another round of finger-pointing begins. Rather than debating the gun-control-vs-Second-Amendment debate and why so much of this violence is taking place (perhaps discussed in a future article), I thought I would address another issue brought up by President Trump after the Parkland massacre on February 14 this year.

The president, in a meeting with parents and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, stated his support for teachers with CCW (carrying concealed weapon) licenses to carry pistols on them to school to defend students and staff at public schools. Part of the reasoning behind this is the saying, "when seconds count, the police arrive in minutes." I love the police and support them, but they cannot be everywhere at once.

Personally, I think that having armed teachers or staff members would be a good stop-gap solution if ... if the following steps are taken. One part of a long-term security solution would be more trained police in each school, but since that is certainly a more expensive option, arming civilians might work.

Having CCW licensees packing a sidearm in a school comes with several problems. Simply put, the average CCW holder does not have the training or experience to accurately shoot a moving target who is possibly firing back (the active shooter) without accidentally hitting an innocent person. Heck, even with all the training police officers go through, there is still the possibility that the officer could hit an innocent person (the police officers I know freely admit that).

I am a CCW instructor in the state of Ohio. I train people throughout the year. The requirements to become eligible for the license are to pass written tests in basic gun knowledge, safety, and accuracy in hitting paper targets on the range. I make applicants hit targets at distances of 10 feet, 15 feet, and 20 feet. It takes eight hours of instruction to qualify for the Ohio CCW (two hours of it on the range). The Ohio CCW license basically only "proves" that you know how various pistols operate, you can hit targets (that are not shooting back or moving), and you probably (hopefully) will not shoot yourself in the foot.

It is an introductory step to shooting. Plenty of people go on from there to become very, very proficient in accurately shooting moving targets. Many CCW holders are former military and police officers, and I would definitely put my life in their hands. Others are simply content to get the license, buy a gun, put it in a drawer somewhere and never practice. As I tell my students all the time, "You will not rise to the occasion. You will fall back on your training. You will fight like you train."

If teachers or other civilians with CCW licenses are to be armed in public schools, they MUST have further help in the following areas:

1. They must have proper armor.

They need body armor. Level III soft body armor (the kind most police wear) will stop almost any pistol round from the common 9 mm to the extremely powerful .44 magnum. However, it will not stop a rifle round like the .223/5.56 from an AR-15 or the 7.62x39 from an AK-47 semi-automatic. For rifle rounds such as those you are most likely talking about steel plate armor such as carried by our military into battle. You can look at all the body armor you want right here at AR500's website.

The stuff doesn't come cheap. But if you want security that can stay in the fight and stop the threat, you'd better have them wearing armor.

2. They must have the proper firearms.

Firing a .22-caliber pistol or a little five shot .38-caliber revolver is not enough for school security ... especially if guards may be facing multiple attackers. They need to have reliable semi-automatic pistols.

Most police today use firearms from Glock, Smith & Wesson, SIG Sauer or Ruger. (If I left out a manufacturer, my apologies.) The calibers they prefer range from 9 mm to .40 caliber to .357 SIG (some federal agencies are now switching over to that particular round) to the .45 ACP.  They must have firearms that can fire rapidly, reload rapidly, and are not prone to jamming so that they can engage with multiple assailants if need be.

Something to be concerned about is "overpenetration" (i.e. the bullet going through the perpetrator and hitting an innocent victim). That certainly is a concern, but there is potential overpenetration with all rounds, even if they are hollow-points. Still, I would take my chances with a well-armed, well-trained good guy with a gun defending me against a nut-case with a gun any day.

If no one is around to shoot back, the bodies will continue to stack up very quickly, as happened in Parkland when the sheriff's deputy refused to go in and engage the murderer. Thank God for the school resource officer in Dixon, Illinois, who pursued a school shooter, shot him (after first being shot at) and arrested the perp just the other day.

3. They must have training in hand-to-hand combat.

What if a perp attacks the CCW holder with a knife or some other bladed instrument? It is a proven fact from the FBI that someone with a knife can cover 21 feet of ground with their knife and plant it in you before you have time to pull your gun out and shoot. Here is legendary martial arts master, Dan Inosanto, demonstrating how a knife-weilding assailant can overcome someone with a pistol before they can draw and accurately shoot:

It is also vital that the CCW licensee know weapon retention cold. If an attacker (or attackers) tried to do the "bum's rush" and overpower you to take your sidearm, would you know how to retain your weapon in your holster? Our police and military are regularly trained in such tactics so that the bad guy can't get the gun, and the good guy can pull it out and use it. Here's a great video demonstrating weapon retention. By the way, you can't learn this stuff by just watching it on YouTube. Ya gotta practice with a resisting partner — a lot.

4. They must have shoot/no shoot training.

The CCW licensee must also have sufficient training in shoot/no shoot drills. These are sometimes called "quick response" drills. Maybe you've seen some of these on some cop show. The officer goes into a building (sometimes dimly lit) and suddenly a picture of a man with a gun pops up. Later, a picture of a mom with three kids pops up. Another picture of a child suddenly darting into the street pops up. Do you shoot or hold your fire?

Of course you should shoot at someone pointing a gun at you. But can you? Do you have the training to accurately put those rounds on the target? Can you accurately hit a moving target? If you do not train in real-life scenarios like these interactive drills (as our law enforcement and military do), then you really have no business walking the halls of a school with a loaded gun, no matter how well-intentioned you are.

But what if you have a CCW license and practice at the range all the time, and you want to protect kids? That is a very noble desire, but I would strongly recommend that you get all this suggested training and support.

It is expensive. If you have the money and want to save the school board some money, go for it. If the school wants to start a "booster club" to support local CCW licensees getting this type of training, I think that would be wonderful. If you have a wealthier school district and they have the money in the budget, then go for it. (However, I think that wealthier school districts would probably just pay for an off-duty police officer.)

No matter what you choose, if you are going to be in a close environment like a school, you really must invest in professional training to maximize your ability to stop the bad guy(s) and to protect the innocent.