We’re happy to arm them with fully automatic firearms at 18, so why not? It’s not like 18 is a magic transformational age of maturity and wisdom. Then again, neither was 21.
But where do we put the lower age limit? How do we get around state laws governing the minimum age at which a person can handle or carry a firearm without immediate adult supervision?
Also remember that when we arm them at age 18, we also require them to complete training courses including discipline and marksmanship.
So should we run these junior guardians through basic training?
I can tell you from experience that nothing says “mortality” like hearing a bullet whiz past your head. Sounds like a really big bee. You don’t get that from the movies or video games.
The late Col. Jeff Cooper had an oft-repeated quote: “Having a gun doesn’t make you armed any more than having a guitar makes you a musician.”
Cooper had a unique perspective that we could use today. He was a Marine and veteran of World War II and Korea. He held a bachelor’s degree from Stanford and a master’s degree from the University of California. He taught high school and community college for two decades. He founded a firearms training school and taught police and military personnel.
He was what one might call a real expert. Even though he died more than 12 years ago, his advice is still influential and well worth heeding.
A cop or a teacher knows help is on the way as fast as humanly possible. The cop (unless he’s with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office) most likely has ballistic armor that at least offers some protection.
I have some questions for the younger people:
- Approximately how many hundreds of full-house rounds have you fired with the handgun you think you might carry? How fast can you fire three shots, all hitting the target? The itty-bitty guns can be painful to shoot but their bullets are seldom sufficient to halt an active shooter or assailant. Remember, the goal isn’t to kill the bad guy, it’s to make them stop and there isn’t a conventional handgun cartridge that is a one-shot man-stopper.
- How do you normally dress for school? Believe it or not, this is important. Your school probably won’t want you to carry your gun like a cowboy or SWAT team member so you need to wear clothing that conceals the gun while allowing quick access to it. How quick is quick? Less than 3 seconds from reaction to first shot at center mass.
- How good are you at keeping a secret? If everybody knows you’re carrying, you could well be a target for a shooter or, more likely, a thief. You can also pretty much give up on walking down the hallway with the object of your affections and holding each other around the waist. While I never carried a handgun until I was an adult, I can tell you from experience that it can make for awkward moments.
- What do you know about weapon retention? It’s generally considered bad form if someone gets your gun away from you. Even if you carry your gun inside the waistband of your pants, you’re going to want a holster anchored to a sturdy belt designed to be a gunbelt.
- Have you ever carried a gun for a long period of time? Say eight hours every day, five days a week? Stick a two-pound weight in your pocket for a week. Better yet, attach it to your belt or stick it in your waistband on your strong-hand side. Think two pounds is a bit much? My duty gunbelt with all the things I had to carry weighed in at about ten pounds.
- Have you ever fired a centerfire firearm without hearing protection? Can you do it two or three times in a row without flinching? [Note: Don’t do this often; I can promise you that it will permanently damage your hearing.]
Some may think these are flippant questions but they are far from it. Besides, these aren’t even the tough questions including the ones any decent person hopes they never have to answer.
Then there are the questions of how many gun-toting young people should there be? Should high schools look more like Old West towns in Hollywood movies? What happens if there is an active shooter and the designated defender is on the athletic field for gym class? Should all the teachers carry guns, too, just in case? Should school districts issue ballistic armor to assistant principals?
Or should we just wing it and see what happens?