President Trump has advocated for arming teachers in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. After the slaughter at Sandy Hook some argued that an armed teacher or principal would have prevented the horror.
At the time, the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre called for armed security guards in every school in the nation. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said, sparking a furor and a national debate that continues today.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Maryland’s lone Republican in Congress, Rep. Andy Harris, recently echoed LaPierre: “I have no problem letting [teachers] carry a firearm in a school building because, honestly, the way you stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
Several years ago 36 law enforcement professionals offered their perspectives on arming teachers during a roundtable discussion at Johns Hopkins University.
They came up with 22 assumptions that people, including public officials, make to support the potential effectiveness of armed teachers. To stop a school shooter, the Hopkins roundtable participants found, a teacher would have to:
- Be adequately trained to use a gun in a crisis.
- Be near the shooting or able to get there in time.
- Have adequate time to “size up” the situation.
- Have “clarity of focus/clarity of thought” about approaching the shooter.
- Have a handgun “ ‘at the ready,’ near hand, or in hand when needed.”
- Quickly remove the gun from a safety holster.
- Remember to unlock the weapon.
- Remember to load the weapon.
- Remember to “chamber a round (if a semi-automatic weapon is used).”
- Be left alone to confront the shooter and not engaged in helping students in some other way during a crisis.
- Shoot quickly and accurately.
- Shoot accurately while moving.
- Have “a ‘clean’ shot at a ‘clear’ target.”
- Have a line of fire that does not jeopardize students or others.
- Have “sufficient momentary cover to enable the shot(s).”
- Be faced with only one assailant.
- Hold on to the weapon if forced into a “close combat” situation.
- The shooter would stand still long enough for the teacher to get a clean shot.
- The shooter would not see the teacher or react aggressively.
- If shot, the shooter would die instantly.
- Police officers responding to the scene would not mistake the armed teacher for the shooter.
- The teacher would not mistake a responding plainclothes officer for the shooter.
That’s a long list of assumptions and best-case conditions adding up to an altogether weak case for arming teachers.
There are other factors highlighted by the Hopkins roundtable and a review of numerous studies:
- “Despite their training and frequent exposure to high-risk and life-threatening events, evidence shows that police officers do not shoot accurately in a crisis encounter.” If police officers have trouble shooting straight, what do we expect from people whose primary focus is teaching social studies?
- The potential dangers of having guns in classrooms: Teachers faced with a crisis might use lethal force when not warranted; students might gain access to a gun.
Of the 36 who participated in the Hopkins roundtable, only five saw any merit to arming teachers, but even they acknowledged that teachers were unlikely to perform well in a shooting encounter.
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