Let’s end the debate.

Image for post
Image for post

In case no one had noticed, the discussion/debate over armed teachers has ended. The polls are officially meaningless.

Armed teachers are a reality and have been for more than ten years. There aren’t any precise numbers, but thousands of teachers have made their own choice.

Mr. Carr’s title is actually pretty accurate. Arming teachers won’t stop school shootings. Why? I will go into more detail shortly.

My first question for Mr. Carr is this: What research?

David Hemenway’s study has been debunked because he failed to adequately account for defensive gun uses when there was no actual discharge of the firearm. Many of those uses are not even reported to police. Both the FBI and CDC seem to be comfortable with a baseline of about 500,000 uses annually.

In fact, a 2013 study by the CDC found that those who used a firearm in self defense had better outcomes than those who attempted other measures.

Gun use in suicide has declined although the overall rate of suicides has continued to increase. This is true of both male suicides and female suicides. It is interesting to note that among women, use of firearms and poison (usually overdoses) have both declined while the rate of suicide by hanging or suffocation has increased sharply. This is important because the suicide rate among women is rising faster than the rate among men.

My second question would be: What does a study of guns in the home have to do with anything? There are about 80 million or more gun owners in the United States. In 2017, the CDC reported there were 486 fatal injuries caused by accidental gunshots. Yes, a home without guns is less likely to experience an accidental shooting or a suicide using a gun, but a home without knives, belts, extension cords, prescription medicines, flammable liquids, poisons is equally less likely to experience accidents or suicides with those. If a person never leaves their home, they are less likely to be killed or injured in an automobile accident, too.

I still find it hard to believe that anyone paid anybody money to state the obvious.

On to the armed teacher portion.

Here’s the deal: There have been armed teachers in schools for more than a decade.While eight states have actual provisions for arming teachers and/or schools staff, half the states in the nation have some provision that would allow for armed teachers.

Texas has had armed teachers since 2007. In the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, the Hungerford Independent School District became the first in the state to allow teachers with valid concealed-carry permits to volunteer as first responders.

While state law prohibits releasing detailed information about district policies or participating staff members, about 170 Texas school districts have officially authorized armed school employees. To date, there has never been an incident of an accidental discharge, an unauthorized person gaining access to a staff member’s firearm or a teacher “going postal.”

Something must be clearly understood: armed teachers are, and should be, considered a last line of defense. “Good guys with guns” are always a reaction to an event that has already begun; the hope is to limit the damage with the quickest possible response. No one should consider them to be a preventative measure. This is true of armed teachers and law enforcement officers, whether stationed in the school or not.

There was a school resource officer on duty at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. He was having lunch at the edge of the school campus when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered the school. As soon as they opened fire, Deputy Neil Gardner responded. In the five minutes it took him to arrive on-scene, the duo had already shot 12 people, killing two of them. He exchanged fire with Harris, but Gardner had only his sidearm and the range was too great.

In 2012, the call went out to Newtown police almost as soon as Adam Lanza fired his first rounds. By the time officers arrived, they heard one gunshot: it was Lanza killing himself.

When the Florida state commission investigating the Parkland shooting released its initial findings, it laid responsibility for the shooting on Nikloas Cruz. However, it was harshly critical of the Broward County Schools, the administration and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office for enabling Cruz to commit his crimes. Ron DeSantis, the new governor of Florida, recently removed long-time sheriff Scott Israel from office in part because of the poor response of county officers to the shooting.

In the most recent academic year, there were an estimated 50.7 million children enrolled in about 98,200 K-12 public schools.

The Center for Homeland Defense and Security made the news when it announced there had been a record number of school shooting incidents. It said there were 96 incidents in 2018.

Examining the data, 20 of those incidents had no relation to school activities or actual student safety. There were 27 incidents with no injuries. Of the reaminder, 15 were the result of fights escalating; six were gang- or illegal drug-related; there were three suicides and one homicide-suicide when a youth shot his ex-girlfriend and committed suicide after exchanging fire with a school resource officer.

There were seven indiscriminate or random shootings, which is what most people think of when they encounter the term. Of those, only two met the recognized parameters for a mass shooting with more than three deaths, not including the perpetrator. Another incident left only two dead, but a large number of people injured. In one event, a shooting was ended by an unarmed teacher with only two people injured. Of the remaining two, only the would-be shooter died, in both cases by self-inflicted wounds.

What would be a lot more productive is if, instead of debating reality, we focused on training these volunteers. Say what you will about diverting their attention from their primary job, the whole process is voluntary.

What is patently unfair, especially considering the state of teacher pay, is expecting them to pay for the training we should want them to have. The role requires much more than simply having a gun, no matter how good of a guy (or woman) one is. The training needed to keep cool in a high-stress situation is critical to an effective response. An actual plan of action beyond filling the air with lead and hoping for the best is also critical.

Incidentally, nobody expects an armed school employee to be a SWAT officer, so Mr. Carr’s comparison is irrelevant. There’s a reason the “S” in “SWAT” stands for “special.” Most police officers qualify with their guns two to four times a year, depending on department and budget, and take refresher courses in various phases of police work as required.

Just as important is having obstacles to delay a would-be shooter. Every second a killer can be delayed is another second to shelter students and to allow police to arrive.

At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, gates and doors that were supposed to be secured weren’t. Monitors who were supposed to help in these situations were basically clueless. As an ex-student, Cruz knew these weaknesses and exploited them.

Another thing we desperately need to do is get a grip. The school shootings we obsess about are extremely rare. It is a sad fact, but it is a fact that a child is several times more likely to be murdered by their own parents that to die or be injured at the hands of a school shooter. Kids are safer at a K-12 public school than they are almost anywhere else.

It’s high time we quit arguing about something that has already been settled and moved on to taking constructive steps to make our schools as safe as possible, with guns or without them.

Professional writer. Passionately interested in facts. Founder of onewordtexas.org

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store