The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission studying the high school mass shooting has offered a suggestion: allow teachers to be armed. The usual opposition to such a measure was swift, namely that teachers are hired to “educate,” not “be law enforcement officers.” This discussion needs some clarity.
Let me lay out some facts before I begin. First of all, I am a former teacher. Second, I am strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Third, I believe our educational system has no business mandating that anyone should be forced to carry a gun when they are uncomfortable doing so. Fourth, I also believe our educational system also has no business mandating that anyone cannot carry a gun in an environment where a threat may pose itself.
What I advocate, and armed teacher proponents advocate, is allowing the individual teacher to make that decision, like Florida appears to be doing. Many teachers are veterans, avid hunters or sportsman, or gun enthusiasts who are very comfortable with guns. Many of them grew up around guns. They can be trusted with them and they can provide an added layer of on-site security that law enforcement cannot. They should not be denied the choice to carry a gun on the job.
Let’s understand that the hysterical reactions to armed teachers comes from a deliberate mis-framing of the argument. No one, myself included, expects an armed teacher to engage in a shoot-out or track and find a gunman whose specific location on a school campus is not known. That is an offensive strategy best left to law enforcement professionals. I do not advocate teachers running around campus looking to engage in a shoot-out. I do, however, advocate teachers who are comfortable with firearms having a defensive strategy that protects the students in their classrooms.
Here was my strategy when I was an educator. If a campus alert went out, I would lock my door and put all of my students in a defensive position: away from the windows, under their desks, or behind barricades. As their teacher, I would take a defensive position behind a desk or podium. My firearm would be at the ready, covering the access point to my classroom.
If any gunman managed to get through the locked door and pose a threat to me or my students, I would engage him at that time. Engaging a gunman in this scenario is self-defense. Consider how this scenario would turn out if I was not armed? It’s a simple strategy, defensive in nature, and would probably ensure my survival and my students.
I hear many teachers who are opposed to being armed say, “I’d die for my students.” Without a strategy for self-defense? That may, indeed, be the result…and an unnecessary result. Or, “I don’t want to shoot another student,” while they are willing to let their students be shot as unprotected targets of a determined well-armed shooter.
I would prefer teachers say, “I want my students to live. I want to live. I don’t want to shoot anyone but I will have a strategy which increases our chances of survival in school-shooting scenario.” But let’s let the individual teachers decide. For myself, as a teacher, I want to live. I want my students to live. And I don’t want the “system” deciding the risks I should take with my life and the lives of my students.
Is this a 100% guarantee? No. But it’s a good start. And it’s certainly preferable to no strategy at all.