Arming Teachers

Retired Special Agent of the US Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) and tactical use of force instructor, Gary Griffiths, offered the following observations related to ongoing discussions related to arming teachers and other school personnel as specially trained employees of a school district. These employees work in a capacity other than as security staff but are trained to protect themselves and others when threats arise in their working environment. Proposed legislation empowering school districts to implement the “embedded” school personnel concept utilizes the term School Marshals.  Please feel free to network with us in reaching out to elected officials, law enforcement agencies and school districts interested in advocating for School Marshal programs:

“There is simply no way to absolutely prevent school shootings from happening in this or any other free country.  Even requiring all students to enter the school campus through a metal detector, like they’re entering an airport is not 100% certain to prevent this sort of tragedy. (Google Red Lake Minnesota, 21 March 2005). The recent tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX also illustrates that even excellent physical security can be instantly negated by a staff member too lazy to follow security protocol.”

“My Credentials: I am a retired Special Agent of the US Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID), and am the retired Director of Advanced Force Tactics, Inc., a firm devoted to teaching judgmental use of force and gun fighting tactics, including active shooter response, to law enforcement agencies nationwide.  In total, I have more than 40 years of law enforcement and law enforcement training experience.

Regardless of Leftist protestations, we know that the only sure way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Also, that when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.  The solution of assigning armed “school resource” police officers on campus has also proven ineffective on occasion, either because of the cowardice/incompetence of the officer (Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 14 February 2018), or because the officers could not effectively patrol a huge, sprawling campus. Nor is there the funding available to hire, train, and deploy additional police resources, to say nothing of the political will to support heavily armed “hunter-killer” teams roaming the hallways terrorizing the students.

There have been many proposals, controversial as they may be, to arm school teachers and support staff for instantaneous response to an active shooter situation.  In places, they have been implemented.  Most often these proposals have taken the form of allowing school staff with concealed weapons permits to carry their weapons on campus during work hours, often after having received special training in active shooter response from local law enforcement agencies.  Despite being popular with firearms enthusiasts in general, there are three drawbacks in allowing teachers and school staff members to carry concealed weapons:

(1) Human nature being what it is, it is inevitable that some armed teacher will leave a gun in a desk drawer, briefcase, purse, or bathroom, to be found by a student. The latter has already happened on several occasions (Michigan in 2013, Pennsylvania in 2016; and, ironically, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018, only two months after the mass shooting). Moreover there have been two negligent discharges by armed teachers in 2018 in Florida and California, the latter involving a teacher who was also a police firearms instructor!

(2) Armed school staff will be at a terrible disadvantage using small concealable handguns against a heavily armed active shooter who may be wearing body armor.  A teacher who is “carrying a lot and shooting a little” will tend to carry a small pocket handgun in .380 ACP, 9mm Parabellum, or .38 Special.  That may be adequate to stop a threat with a carefully placed shot from a few feet away, but what happens if the active shooter is across a basketball court, or football field, or in the middle of a screaming, writhing crowd of students?  It’s asking a lot of even a well-trained teacher to calmly and accurately place a head shot on a shooter 25 yards away, especially when there are other students present.

(3) Armed teachers will be in mortal danger from law enforcement officers responding to reports of an active shooter.  Police responding to an active shooter call are trained to shoot immediately without warning if they observe a person with a gun who is an imminent threat to others.  I know.  I trained some of them to do that!  And while armed school personnel train regularly with the local law enforcement agencies partly to prevent that from happening, an “active shooter” call will bring responding units from anywhere within radio range.  Not all of those officers will recognize trained armed teachers on sight.  Armed school staff members should have clearly identifiable “POLICE”- marked clothing, preferably armored “raid jackets” so they can be instantly identified as “good guys” by responding officers and panicky students.

Pre-staging effective weapons and protective gear like we do fire extinguishers will minimize the danger of weapons on campus while maximizing the chances of quickly stopping an armed intruder.

The best solution to mitigating the casualty count in school active shooter incidents is to pre-stage AR-15 or similar rifles in secure, alarmed containers at numerous locations on the campus, along with armored clearly identifiable “raid” jackets for responding school staff. Specially trained teachers and staff members need only carry a key to the container, reducing the chance of a weapon falling into the wrong hands. Upon hearing an alarm, or shots fired, responding teachers could don the raid jacket and grab an effective weapon within seconds when delay equates to lost lives. Responding law enforcement would be instantly able to identify “good guy” school staff.”

Gary Griffiths, May. 2022

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