Arming South Carolina School Teachers Is Doing It Right

The contemporary state of “School Safety,” for most American school districts consists primarily of hiring consultants—often of dubious qualifications—to teach students and pupils to run, lock doors, hide, and as a last resort, attack armed intruders with waves of children. One Alabama middle school principal dared to expand such bold initiatives by asking students to bring 8-ounce cans of corn and peas to stockpile in classrooms. If an armed killer entered a classroom, the teacher was to issue the cans so students could pelt the killer. Presumably, the killer would agree to wait until the cans could be distributed and the students arranged into ranks, like the British at Rourke’s Drift, the better to provide successive and unrelenting volleys of canned veggies, at which point, any crazed and armed mass murderer would surely fall to the floor in a fetal position and beg for mercy.

Contemporary school defensive armament credit:

Many “educators” go so far as to refuse to allow armed security guards or police officers in schools, arguing the mere presence of a firearm somehow disrupts a pristine learning environment, or that such weapons are somehow more dangerous than an attack by a psychopath bent on killing as many students and teachers as possible.

Never bringing a knife to a gunfight is well-known and well-considered advice. Never bringing veggies to a gunfight is brilliant advice.

A South Carolina legislator is ready to introduce a bill to allow armed teachers in South Carolina schools. The debate already roiling illustrates the difficulties of overcoming decades of faulty, irrational, non-tactical thinking.

After a 14-year-old shot and killed a six-year-old student on the grounds of an elementary school, a South Carolina lawmaker is drafting legislation that would allow teachers to take up arms.

Republican State Rep. Joshua Putnam is putting forth the new bill to let teachers volunteer to carry weapons.

‘It would incorporate mostly live shooter scenarios. So then teachers are familiar with how to approach that gunman on campus, how to interact with getting children away from… danger situations and how to confront that until law enforcement arrives,’ said Putnam.

Putnam is obviously well-intentioned, but one of the problems of such legislation is it is based on mistaken assumptions and sets in stone unnecessary restrictions. The most important question in the debate is: when an attack occurs, what are teachers and staff ready to do, then and there? Unless the answer is immediately meet it with deadly force, the inevitable outcome will be wounded and dead children and teachers. The police will not be there in time to have any effect on the outcome.

The Sandy Hook attack is illustrative.  The first call to police was not made until nearly six minutes into the attack because the killer was actually in the school office, forcing staff to hide, helplessly, under their desks. Until he left—no one knows why he didn’t try to find and kill the secretaries—no one could make the call. The first officer arrived within 3 minutes of receiving the radio call—a blisteringly fast time in such situations—but no officer entered the building until 9 minutes after they received the radio call, about 15 minutes after the attack began, and about 6 minutes after the first officer arrived. By then, the killer, who shot himself, had been dead for about five minutes, and all of his victims were wounded, dying, or dead. If he chose, he could have killed for an additional five minutes, perhaps more, as it would have taken the officers some time to find and engage him. In school shootings, every second waiting for the police is bought with blood.

credit: my

Fortunately, not every educator is hoplophobic:

Rock Hill, S.C. teacher Judy O’Neal says having teachers carry is one way to keep children safe.

‘I’m very comfortable with guns and I think there are people who can handle a gun in a school situation,’ O’Neal said.

O’Neal, who grew up in a home with guns, knows the dangers of having a weapon and believes teachers with proper training would improve safety in schools. Still, she said it would take plenty of preparation.

‘I believe it will take a lot of planning and a lot of scrutinizing before it just hops on to campus,’ O’Neal said.

Actually, not as much as O’Neal imagines. Police officers undergo extensive training because their jobs require far more than shooting ability. In fact, most police officers are not expert shooters, as I explained here at Bearing Arms in “Harsh Reality: Police Are Not Highly Trained Firearms Experts.” Millions of Americans safely carry concealed weapons every day, everywhere but school zones. They don’t require the same types of training as police officers to safely carry their firearms, and they often stop violent crimes in progress because they’re present where the police are not. Do such reliable, effective people suddenly become dangerous to children when they step over a school threshold?

The only skills a teacher absolutely needs are the ability to shoot straight, and appropriate knowledge of the laws of deadly force relative to their state. Professional tactical training is always to be desired, but such concerns should not delay or prevent the saving of lives.

But Dr. Jacqueline Persinski, another teacher in South Carolina, is against legislation arming teachers.

Persinski said in a statement to Fox News: ‘I am against having teachers carrying weapons on school campus. I fear something tragic is more likely to occur by having the weapon on campus and it getting into the wrong hands.

Perhaps guns will leap out of a teacher’s holster and shoot someone, but only on campus, and not elsewhere? Anyone carrying a handgun is responsible—anywhere—for keeping it concealed and secure. All manner of calamities are possible, but the fact that human beings are not perfect cannot deny teachers the means to save lives. The “wrong hands” belong to people that would kill children. The right hands are the people best positioned to stop killers: teachers and staff.

Our police officers are trained by profession to handle hostile situations, and teachers are not,’ Persinski said. If a situation were to occur, I believe our SRO and police are well-trained and fully capable of managing it effectively and efficiently. Teachers are trained to protect students in lockdown procedures and will protect the students until police arrive. Using weapons is completely different.

Teachers will “handle” such “hostile” situations by shooting and stopping a killer. Police officers rushing into ambiguous situations sometimes make mistakes, because they don’t know what’s happening. Teachers will have no doubt what’s happening and what to do.

Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 with integral laser sight

School resource officers or security guards are good to have—in some cases—but most schools can’t afford them. Single SROs can’t be present 24/7, and are usually shared with multiple schools. Even those assigned to a single school, which tend to be larger high schools, are often not on campus owing to the nature of their duties. The chance they’ll be present at the right place when an attack occurs is small. Teachers are always present, during school hours, at bus stops, on the playground, at stadiums and extracurricular activities.

Mr. Putnam would like to raise sufficient taxpayer money to put a SRO in every South Carolina school. Unfortunately, that would cost nearly 100 million dollars—a year—and most schools, particularly elementary schools where the children are most vulnerable and helpless, simply don’t need a full-time SRO, nor could they justify the expense.

Teacher training on “lockdown procedures,” amounts, as previously noted, to running, hiding, and locking easily breached doors. Their ability to protect their students survives only as long as hiding children remain unfound and doors remain locked.

I think this is opening doors for risk,’ [Bernadett] Hampton [former math teacher and SC Education Association President] said. ‘As a math teacher, I feel that it would escalate and provide more opportunity for potential fatal or potential situations that would not occur [otherwise].

And of course, math teachers are uniquely qualified to speak to issues of life and death. To Persinski and Hampton, nothing could be worse than armed teachers, ready and able to save lives. Interestingly, anyone with a concealed carry license is vetted essentially identically to those holding teacher’s certification.

Hampton called for ‘preventative measures’ and said teachers should focus more on teaching students: ‘Teachers are trained to teach and to instill the love of learning within students…

Preventative measures such as gun free school zone signs? They haven’t been terribly persuasive to date. Armed teachers are entirely free to focus on teaching, until the very few minutes when they might have to be distracted by a murderer. It’s rather hard to “instill the love of learning within students” when they’re dead. One suspects students saved by armed teachers might be rather grateful—the same for the children’s parents—their teachers focused a few minutes of their attention away from teaching.

Unfortunately, few politicians possess the tactical and firearms experience and knowledge necessary to realistically and effectively set up a school carry program. The basics are simple, and can be started by nothing more difficult than allowing concealed carry licensees to immediately begin carrying on school property. They have already, in most states, been entirely vetted—twice if teachers—passed shooting and firearms knowledge tests, and know the deadly force laws of their state.

Tactical training can and should be arranged, but should not delay or prevent the saving of lives. School attacks remain thankfully rare, but there is no reason they cannot occur anywhere at any time. One must be aware that the local police are not always the best choice for competent training.

No one must ever be forced to carry a concealed handgun. It must be entirely voluntary.

One common mistake is to lock all guns in a central armory, or in lockboxes in teacher’s rooms. Such guns are useless to teachers confronted on a playground, in a hallway or library, at a bus stop, or if the principal, who has the key or combination, is out of the building, or face down in a pool of his own blood while a killer rampages onward.

Glock 26 9mm with Crimson Trace laser sight

Another common mistake is to mandate a single model/caliber of handgun and a single holster. Teachers must have leeway, within reasonable, well-known parameters, to choose the gun and other equipment best suited to their bodies and concealment needs.

Weapons must be, at all times, on each teacher’s person, and completely concealed. With contemporary technology, and many excellent handguns on the market specifically designed with concealment in mind, this is not difficult, but it is mandatory. It’s the only way to ensure control of the weapons at all times, and to make them immediately available when and where they are needed.

School districts must take pains to widely publicize school carry status, including the use of signs, but must never reveal the names of teachers, the names of schools, or the numbers of teachers. One of the great strengths of concealed carry generally is criminals can’t know who is carrying, but must assume that anyone they accost could be carrying. Even if a given school has no teacher carrying concealed, their school still enjoys the deterrent effect.

For those seeking additional, and far more detailed information, my updated series on this topic is available here.   The final article in the series has links to the entire series.

The lives of children and teachers can be saved, but only if people with their hearts in the right places do nothing that interferes in any way with the primary goal of, and reason for, school concealed carry: to stop attacks when and where they occur.