Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is going to catch some heat for for vetoing of a bill that would allow school security officers to carry guns on campus.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have allowed school security officers to carry firearms on school property under certain conditions.

“This bill would expose schools and students to unnecessary risk and potential harm by allowing individuals without adequate training to carry firearms on school grounds,” the governor said in a statement accompanying his veto of House Bill 1234.

The legislation, sponsored by Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, would have allowed private school security guards who are retired law enforcement officers to carry firearms on school grounds – the same privilege currently afforded to school resource officers, who are employees of a local law enforcement agency and assigned to public schools in some school systems.

McAuliffe’s statement on the veto drew a distinction between the two types of officers, noting that school resource officers “receive significant and ongoing training. School security officers, on the other hand, are civilian employees of a school division who do not receive training regarding firearms or the appropriate use of force with juveniles,” McAuliffe stated.

“Allowing additional firearms in schools without appropriate training would create an environment that is less, rather than more, secure.”

When I saw the headline…

McAuliffe vetoes bill to let school security officers carry guns

…I was ready to rip him a new one.

The thing is, his objections aren’t without merit. 

Frankly, he’s right this time around.

McAuliffe isn’t objecting to armed security for our students in schools (which is what the headline suggests). Schools in Virginia already employ armed school resource officers (SROs) like many other states. These SROs are active-duty law enforcement officers (typically police or sheriff’s deputies, depending on where you are in the country). In recent years, SROs  have stopped two attempted school shootings, at Arapahoe High School (Colorado) almost exactly a year after Sandy Hook, and at Reynolds High School (Oregon) in the summer of 2014.

What McAuliffe is objecting to is the arming of school guards who are retired law enforcement officers who lack the current training that the SROs receive.

It’s hardly a public secret that while law enforcement officers are generally good folks, most do not have significant firearms training, and their training varies significant from area to area within states, and from state to state. Unless these law enforcement officers (LEOs) are “gun guys” who seek out additional training on their own time (spending some of the meager salaries to do so), or are detailed to special units, their training is typically rudimentary.

LEOs* generally (notice the qualifier) are limited to training on static targets on a square range with generous time allowances. If they are not trained for the very specialized conditions—long hallways, individual bad guys hiding among a panicked, fleeing mass of “no-shoots”—then simply putting more guns into the equation likely raises the risk of innocent students getting caught in a crossfire. Likewise, the bill McAuliffe vetoed seems expressly designed to address retired officers. Retired officers come in a wide range of conditions and ages, from super-fit, hyper-competent folks I see competing in 3 Gun competitions on the national level in their mid-40s, to doddering 70-somethings that can barely move or see much past their front sight.

For once, I think McAuliffe’s decision may be the correct one.

Now, if we can just get a bill in the Virginia legislature to train teachers to carry the way they’re training teachers in Missouri, then I think they’ll be well on the way to having adequately-defended schools.


* The same applies when people suggest putting armed military veterans in our schools. 90+ percent of veterans don’t handle small arms on a routine basis as part of their military occupational specialty (MOS), and of the few who do, even few carried handguns, and of those, almost none left the service have the kind of training that would set them up for success as an SRO as they walk in the door.