Educators and administrators in Missouri are already legally allowed to carry on the job if they’ve been designated a “School Protection Officer” by their local school district, but a new piece of legislation would expand the existing SPO program to allow “other designated personnel” to do the same. HB 1440 received broad approval in the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education, with lawmakers voting 14-3 in favor of the legislation, but the bill still has its critics.
Rather than objecting to the expansion of the School Protection Officer program, however, it sounds like most of the naysayers are simply opposed to armed school staff in general.
“So now the teacher has to fear,” said Roger Franklin with the Springfield Action Center. “Do I have to shoot a kid or shoot an adult that comes into school? I get it; we have to protect our kids. We’re all about that. But I think that us having our teachers and our administration, being able to carry the guns inside of the school just adds more fuel to the fire to me.”
Franklin founded the Springfield Action Center, a group that looks to get guns out of the hands of kids. He says schools are under enough stress as it is without adding guns to the mix.
“This is just to me. It’s asinine, it’s ignorance, and we can do better than this,” said Franklin.
The SPO program has been in existence without issue for a decade, so Franklin’s fearmongering is already off-base. But let’s say that a teacher or administrator is confronted with an armed assailant who arrives on campus with murder on their mind and evil in their hearts. Would he really prefer that students and staff just hunker down helplessly until law enforcement arrives and takes action, especially knowing that in some cases it could be an hour or more before first responders actually respond?
That seems asinine to me, and to plenty of other folks who daily think about threats to student safety, like law enforcement trainer Roger Moore.
“Seven to 15 minutes before the first police officer will arrive on scene, the average active shooter event is over in five minutes,” said Moore. “So what that should tell you is it’s simply a math problem. If we don’t have the intervention capacity to stop that person within the first 30 seconds of the initiation of that attack, we’re going to have a high casualty rate. That’s what we’re trying to stop.”
“What you got to have is you’ve got to have an intervention-capable person in every building where students are present,” said Moore. “That’s what this program allows you to do: to put an SPO in each building with an SRO, who is available as many of them as the school district can afford and can recruit.”
Moore’s statement echoes research conducted by the Homeland Security Institute at Purdue University, which has found that the fastest way to stop an active shooter attack on a school campus is to have school resource officers on site to engage the attacker while armed staff shelter in place with students behind locked doors to serve as another line of defense in case the assailant manages to get inside a classroom.
Nothing in HB 1440 would change the existing requirements for School Protection Officers. Applicants must possess a valid concealed carry license as well as a certificate of completion of a school protection officer training program, which requires staffers undergo 112 hours of training and instruction before they can be certified. The only change would be that any and all school personnel would be able to take part in the SPO program, instead of just arbitrarily limiting participation to teachers and administrators. That would be a boon to smaller and more rural school districts, who may not be able to provide a uniformed school resource officer on every campus, but even larger districts would benefit from the larger pool of potential SPOs.
I honestly wish we had a program like this in place for my local school district. We have one uniformed deputy that splits time between the high school and nearby middle school, but the primary and elementary schools, as well as our county’s pre-school program, have no dedicated law enforcement presence on campus. There are plenty of staffers who possess valid concealed carry licenses who would be willing to serve as a first line of defense for the kids in their care, but have no way of doing so thanks to current Virginia law. Missouri’s current law is already far better than the status quo in my home state, but HB 1440 would make a good system even better, and I hope that the lopsided committee vote in favor is a sign that the bill will fare just as well when it hits the House floor in coming days.