The idea of arming trained, volunteer school staff members to serve as a first line of defense against any targeted attack on students has been dismissed by Democratic lawmakers and teachers unions alike, but a majority of voters appear much more receptive to the idea. A new poll by the Trafalgar Group found almost 60% of voters believe that the absence of armed school staff members makes schools more dangerous, with just 30% disagreeing.
More importantly, as we discuss on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, research into the idea bolsters the claims by supporters that having an armed presence on campus can save lives… a lot of lives.
Dr. J. Eric Dietz is the director of the Homeland Security Institute at Purdue University, and has been studying this issue for years with an eye towards reducing casualties and ending these active shooter incidents as quickly as possible. During today’s conversation, Dietz told me that computer modeling conducted by the HSI shows that two things can reduce fatalities in an active shooter situation on a school campus by more than 80%; the presence of a school resource officer who can engage the assailant, and 5-10% of school staff members who have been trained and are armed to protect kids in locked classrooms.
The idea isn’t teachers would be roaming the hallways looking for the attacker. Under Dietz’s modeling, that’s left up to law enforcement, with the armed staff members sheltering in place with their students and taking action only if the door to their classroom (or library, or administrative office) is breached.
Still, many educators want nothing to do with the idea.
“I went to college to become a teacher, not a law enforcement officer,” said Jourden Armstrong, a teacher for 15 years in Michigan. “Commonsense gun reform is an absolutely necessary component to curbing this uniquely American problem.”
She also argued teachers would leave the profession in droves if these policy proposals were enacted. There was already a shortage of teachers around the US and the Covid-19 pandemic worsened the problem.
“I’m scared, my kids are scared, and I’m ready to walk away from a job I love because I feel absolutely powerless,” Armstrong said. “Powerless to protect myself, powerless to protect my students, and powerless to blood money that our legislators continue to accept because they put profit over people.”
Even if every gun in the United States was banned tomorrow that wouldn’t get rid of the problem of determined killers arming themselves and targeting innocent human lives. But we’re also not going to ban every gun, or even every modern sporting rifle, and not because lawmakers are “putting profit over people.” The are simply tens of millions of Americans who don’t believe that criminalizing the right to keep and bear arms is constitutional or effective at stopping violent predators, cold-blooded killers, and deranged individuals from carrying out their crimes.
And regardless of Armstrong’s objections, I expect we’ll be seeing a number of states push to establish some sort of formal program allowing volunteer staff members to get training and the authorization to carry a firearm on campus. Laws are already in place in Texas and Florida, and on Wednesday the Ohio legislature passed a law that will once again allow for armed school staff members to be on campus without having to first undergo more than 700 hours of law enforcement training, and Gov. Mike DeWine is on board.
“Last week I called on the General Assembly to pass a bill that would allow local school districts, if they so chose, to designate armed staff for school security and safety. My office worked with the General Assembly to remove hundreds of hours of curriculum irrelevant to school safety and to ensure training requirements were specific to a school environment and contained significant scenario-based training. House Bill 99 accomplishes these goals, and I thank the General Assembly for passing this bill to protect Ohio children and teachers. I look forward to signing this important legislation,” DeWine said in a statement Wednesday night.
If teachers don’t want to be a part of any armed defense in school they don’t have to volunteer, but given the clear benefit shown by Dietz’s research, I would hope that more of them would at least be happy to see their colleagues step up and take on the responsibility of protecting the lives of the students and staff on campus. School resources officers are a critical component to keeping kids safe, but armed school staff can also make a big difference, especially in districts that don’t have the funding to put a uniformed officer in every school.