Arming teachers may not be the easiest or best solution to school shootings

In the wake of the Parkland school shooting, as with other such tragedies, I’m sure you’ve seen calls to arm teachers, so they can protect their students.  I’ve made such calls myself in the past.  However, I’ve been thinking about it, and it may raise as many issues as it might solve.

First off, not all schools are equal.  Some are dens of student iniquity – violence, disrespect for the authority of teachers, gang activity, and so on.  New York City is a prime example.  If teachers were armed in such schools, they’d be targeted by the gang-bangers, who’d try to take their guns for their own purposes.  If the teachers defended themselves, they’d be crucified in the media – “Teacher shoots Grade 9 student!” and so on.  The facts of the matter would be ignored.  In such schools, I can’t see armed teachers being an option for school security.

Second, there’s the training involved.  Some school districts may be content to have teachers qualify under state concealed carry permit standards.  Others will train them more rigorously.  In Texas, where I live, there are a number of programs like this.  However, none of them rise to the level of full police training.  I don’t necessarily see that as a problem, but others do.  They argue that if you want teachers to be teachers, let them remain teachers;  if you want them to be policemen, then they can’t be teachers any longer.  There’s a certain amount of truth in that.  If we want armed teachers, we have to accept that they won’t be trained and equipped to the level of formal law enforcement officers.  As far as I’m concerned, I’m willing to accept that.  Others aren’t.

Associated with that issue is the cost of training.  Who pays?  It’s expensive to get really good handgun training, at the level of an introductory course at Gunsite or Thunder Ranch, or a school of similar quality (which I would regard as a minimum standard for any armed teacher I’d trust with the lives of my children).  Including travel, hotel accommodation, ammunition, etc., I’ll be surprised if you spend less than $2,000 to attend such a course – and that’s only the first part of the training.  There are annual qualifications to consider, as well as equipment (holster, belt, firearm, magazines, ammunition, etc.).  Who pays?  Will the school or school district be willing to fund such costs?

Another element of training is team tactics.  An armed teacher should ideally be trained to work as a team with other armed teachers.  They don’t want someone pulling a Rambo and going charging out into the line of fire.  They all need to understand what the others will do in an emergency, and how to act themselves without endangering other members of the team.  They may have to work together to secure a shooting scene while waiting for the police to arrive, including controlling panicky students.  This can be a very big job indeed.  Teamwork will be essential – and it doesn’t just happen.  It has to be trained and practiced.  That’s another demand on their time, because it will have to be an ongoing process, not a one-time class.

What happens if a teacher defends his or her students using a firearm, and one or more of their bullets actually injures an innocent student?  This can happen very easily – over-penetration of a wall, hitting someone on the other side;  a ricochet off the floor;  poor aim under stress;  and so on.  You can already imagine the howls of outrage from much of society.  The teacher will almost certainly face lawsuits and demands for humongous damages, as will the school and school district.  In the absence of enabling legislation, including indemnity for such occurrences, I don’t know how to get around this problem.  In some states, existing legislation would prevent lawsuits.  In others, such legislation does not exist.  Can there be a national standard that applies everywhere?  Should there be one?

There will also have to be prior planning and coordination with local law enforcement authorities.  If they get a call about a shooter at a school, they’re going to move in with foot, horse and artillery, if they’re any good.  Armed teachers will want to be as sure as possible that they won’t be targeted by trigger-happy officers, shooting at anyone they see carrying a gun.  (That’s not just a theoretical danger, either, as we discussed earlier this morning.)  That means ongoing joint training with law enforcement, at a minimum.

There’s also the potential limitation on the teacher’s activities.  He or she will have to have their firearm under their personal control every minute of the day.  It’s no good locking it in a safe somewhere, to allow them to do something else.  If they don’t have it when it’s needed, they may as well not have it at all.  On the other hand, if they’re always carrying it on their person, they’ll need to dress to conceal it.  That may hamper them from conducting certain activities (e.g. lab work, where they may need to wear protective clothing;  sports training, where they may need activity-appropriate clothing;  etc.).  Even if they can dress to conceal it, it will need to be readily accessible in an emergency, so their clothing will have to be chosen with that in mind.  That may go against a formal or informal dress code for teachers at their school, making them stand out.

I haven’t seen points like these discussed by those advocating the arming of teachers.  I remain of the opinion that it’s a good idea, in the absence of sufficient armed police officers permanently stationed at each and every school.  I’ve argued in the past that terrorists would like nothing better than to reproduce the Beslan school massacre here, and I continue to believe that.  Contrary to liberal and progressive scoffers, who would argue that a handgun is no match for an AK-47 or similar weapon, a handgun can, indeed, be a deterrent.  At the very least, it can buy time for students to run like hell, while a few armed teachers hold the line behind them!  It’s a whole lot better than nothing.

Nevertheless, if we want armed teachers, we’d better give some thought to these questions, too.  It’s not as simple an issue as it might appear.



  1. I'm pretty sure other states have enabled school staff (teachers, admin, others…) to have guns. I'm also pretty sure that if even one instance like you describe had happened, we'd have heard of it by now. I'm not dismissing your points. I just believe that they cannot be as large a factor as perhaps you're making them out to be. (Maybe I'm reading too much into it though) I'd like to see some data from those states on the kinds of things you mention.

    All the points you make would also be in play for anyone at the school with a gun, police or otherwise. And there's plenty of evidence to suggest that police don't get the firearms training we'd like to think they do or we'd like them to have! I for one don't think police in school is the right solution.

    I think just the idea that there might be someone armed and willing to intervene immediately would be a deterrent to all these pitiful souls that we're talking about now.

    Those bent on a Beslan type of attack would still make an attempt regardless, so short of having a dozen armed and counterterrorist trained officers onsite at all times, this is something I think (like you) we'll eventually have to deal with as best we can without turning schools into armed camps. A few discretely armed staff would be a good start.

  2. There's another problem – do you want children, 5yo and up, to be indoctrinated in the perception of the armed government official as the source of wisdom and probity? Parents now have so much competition for their childrens' dwindling respect that this may be the lip of of the falls.

    Perhaps it's time for a bow-to-stern survey of the whole concept of primary "education."

  3. "…which I would regard as a minimum standard for any armed teacher I'd trust with the lives of my children…"

    Gee, [sarc on] what would happen if every confessing Christian family in this country pulled their children out of government schools.[sarc off]

    You always get more of what you subsidize. You are feeding the monster, and then wondering how to keep its teeth clean and claws clipped.

  4. With all due respect, I think you are overthinking this. If a crazed shooter arrives on campus and commits mayhem, I do not expect an armed teacher to retrieve their firearm and advance on them. To this I agree with you – that is expecting a lot from an individual with no training specifically toward that goal. Former military members who are now faculty I think would have that option if THEY FEEL it appropriate.

    What I see is the teacher doing running to lock the door, tell the students to get away from the entry and facing the door, wait for the shooter to try and get in. If the shooter succeeds in breaching it, the teacher has full permission to relieve them of their misery – permanently. The key is identifying the target – you do not want to shoot at a person who is just trying to get away from the shooter.

    I probably over simply it a bit, but I don't expect Kindergarten teacher Ms. Jenkins to hike up her skirt, don a kevlar vest and helmet and go 'full bore Rambo' ;^)

  5. Considering what is being asked of armed teachers, training them to 'the level of law enforcement' is neither warranted, nor is it sufficient. That sounds paradoxical, so let me unpack it:
    1. Unwarranted: We are not wanting teachers to be police, so training them in everything else that goes with being a LEO is wasteful of resources, time, and money. Beyond saying, "don't mess with the scene before police show up as that is tampering with evidence," we are wasting time. We want teachers that are SHOOTERS not COPS. That means teach them to shoot, teach them to carry concealed, teach them what to do in an active shooter situation. PERIOD. Armed teachers are there to a) prevent school shootings through deterrence (knowing that someone is armed WILL deter these dirt bags), b) SHOOT the dirty buggers that aren't deterred, c) act as speed-bumps to buy time for innocents to flee and LEOs to arrive. They are there to kill and, if necessary, die in order for others to survive.
    2. Insufficient: Law Enforcement marksmanship in the US is, to be blunt, FREAKING PATHETIC. And I'm not talking about NYPD's 15% hit rate during shooting incidents, I'm talking actual basic marksmanship ability on a short known distance range with paper targets in perfect weather. It is PATHETIC. Yeah, there are exceptions, with my involvement in competitive shooting I personally know a bunch of them, but they are just that, EXCEPTIONS. And most of those exceptions are because they are proverbial 'gun nuts' (like you and me). The sad fact is, the vast majority of people that have come through my CCW classes can out shoot most of our local law enforcement. Teachers carrying in school need to be trained better in marksmanship than law enforcement.

  6. I see armed teachers as the last line of defense. There's no need to teach them to be cops, because it's not their job to be cops. If an armed intruder makes it inside the school intent on committing mayhem, the cops have already failed.

    And as we've seen repeatedly from various law enforcement agencies around the country, their training on target identification and actually hitting a valid target sucks donkey schlong. One of my former coworkers, who's now an SRO, said that if he follows his training he's shooting anyone with a gun inside a school if he's called to a school shooting. THAT is piss poor training.

    There are multiple things that need to improve in order to prevent school shootings. Arming teachers is pretty low order for prevention in my opinion, but pretty high once it comes to responding to one.

  7. You are assuming that the cops have some level of training. Perhaps some do, but most don't. their minimums are pretty low. Most cops can't shoot as well as most folks who have a carry permit….or as often.

    Now, perhaps they'd like you to think that isn't the case, but most cops don't bother until a month before yearly qualification time. Their marksmanship is atrocious, their handling of firearms is terrible, and their ability to do reloads is even worse. Look at the latest videos on YouTube for examples.

    Some cops are, indeed, gun guys. Most cops aren't. Most don't even MAINTAIN their firearms well, much less practice with them.

    To claim that teachers won't be able to meet the standards cops have to is ludicrous. They aren't all like Ian.

  8. You are sounding like a Democrat.

    "The can't do it perfectly, so they shouldn't even attempt it"

    "People shouldn't have guns at home, just call the cops when someone kicks in your door"

    Very disappointing attitude.

  9. Peter,

    during all the years I was following your blog I have learned a lot about military/sci-F/fiction/fantasy literature. Dozens of writers, hundreds of e-Books so far. Verrrry interesting. Thank you very, very much for so many weeks (months?) of reading pleasure. You, Michael Z. Williamson, Matthew Bracken, LawDog, JL Curtis, Eric Flint, John Ringo, Tom Kratman, and…and… and last but not least Larry Correia. I'm sure you know him. He's not only a writer, he also has a background and some pretty proficiency as a firearms instructor, especially when it comes to the training of law enforcement guys. He once wrote a remarkable opinion piece about gun control and school shootings. If you haven't read it yet, you should. It gives answers to some of these questions and concerns you have about armed teachers:

  10. B is right, all the issues you raised also apply to teachers- to whit, SFPD shooting 65 times at less than 10 yards and never hitting the perp in the motor home…

  11. I want to ad that you are WAY off base on what you claim to accept as the minimum level of training to defend your children.

    By mandating that teachers must take an expensive, week long course at Thunder Ranch or some such, you are perpetuating the myth that the antis love to spread that guns owners in general shouldn't carry unless they are trained to the Walker, Texas Ranger level of training. By demanding that level of training, you are setting the minimum for protecting your children to be: hide in the dark with your unarmed teacher while the gunner systematically guns them down, the police cower and take cover outside, and hope that the killer's gun jams before he gets to your kids.

  12. The Good is the enemy of the Best, but right now we have abject failure. ALLOWING teachers to be armed in schools will be an improvement even if we only require they meet their state's CCW training requirements. As was observed above, this is a last stand protective measure, not a room clearing/find the felon exercise.

    Right now we have a Known Soft Target in our schools. If teachers are allowed to carry a prospective shooter won't know if his school is unprotected or which teachers and staff are armed.

    Uncertainty is our ally.

  13. Thank you, Peter, for organizing such a comprehensive collection of straw man arguments against the idea of adult school employees, some of which may be classroom teachers, being instructed in techniques they might employ against an armed intruder in their school.

    Of the 14 states that presently allow such an option, NY and CA joining Texas thereon, local school leadership is responsible for organizing such efforts. One possible form of assistance the US Department of Education might offer is to (at least partially) fund instruction to a stipulated, national level of qualification, and another might be to provide modest salary increases for those school employees that do elect to undergo and maintain their firearm qualifications and practical knowledge of their school's threat response plan(s). You are correct, of course, that no one wants armed individuals charging off into an already fraught situation gun in hand.

    It seems self-evident at this point that existing security measures are inadequate (when they aren't outright self-defeating) and that some effective mechanism offering layers of self-reinforcing components needs be created. Your efforts to highlight some of the stumbling blocks that presently exist in the American cultural, legal, and political are appreciated.

  14. I firmly disagree that teachers need tactical training. Simply put, the same teachers that are willing to throw themselves over/between their charges and gunfire should have the better option of shooting back. Trying to pin all the tactical training and knowledge into the requirements is BS. They need NONE of that. Tell them to stay put and if the shooter shows up in their hallway start shooting. They can shelter in place just fine…just make it an armed place.

  15. With the greatest of respect to my readers, I think you haven't read what I said above. Please note the following condensed points:

    1. I think armed school teachers are a good idea, absent the possibility of sufficient armed school police officers at every school. I've said as much before, and I said it again above. The arguments I raised were not against arming teachers, but considerations that should be thought about in the context of doing so.

    2. I'm pointing out issues that can, and almost certainly will, arise if and when teachers are armed. For example, the first time a teacher has an accidental discharge that ricochets and hits a student, the lawsuits are probably going to be epic. In that context, what about qualified immunity? Who pays any damages awarded? Is the teacher responsible, or the school, or the school district, or the state? Who pays the medical bills?

    We daren't close our eyes or our minds to these realities. They remain issues, even if we prefer not to acknowledge them. That's why I raised them.

  16. Training teachers "to the level of LEO" isn't the best idea. Most are piss poor shots under the best of circumstances. And most teachers aren't going to carry no matter what because most teachers drank the Kool Aid and became socialists/communists long ago. They truly believe guns are evil and only he anointed ones from the holy government should have them. The best we can do is make it legal for those few who would carry in schools and give those who do the same "qualified immunity" cops get when they f**k up and shoot an innocent person. That way the true protectors can be anonymous till needed.

  17. First off, not all schools are equal. Some are dens of student iniquity – violence, disrespect for the authority of teachers, gang activity, and so on. New York City is a prime example. If teachers were armed in such schools, they'd be targeted by the gang-bangers, who'd try to take their guns for their own purposes.

    How did you uncover this secret, which has obviously been hidden from the law enforcement establishment in NYC? Because if the NYC LEO establishment knew then obviously as good public servants they would prosecute and remove these violent children from the classroom. Just like they did in Parkland.

    You're wishing for government to behave differently than you observe it does. Maybe there is work in the East.

  18. In every case of mass shooting the incident ends when the shooter(s) encounter what they perceive to be lethal resistance.
    In most cases they are killed, captured, kill themselves to avoid capture, or in a few cases attempt to flee before the authorities have the chance to confront them.
    Teachers are the first immediate line of defense. Time after time we hear heartbreaking tales of a brave teacher shielding their students with their own bodies. Bare handed or at most with whatever found objects are available. How much better off if just a small few volunteers had lethal force training and were given special deputy status by the local sheriff.
    Ten states currently allow ccw permit holders to carry on college campus. Some schools authorize teachers to carry while at work, others do not. More details at this link:
    Given that the practice is already in place in several locations, has been for some time, we can be certain that no unfortunate accidents have occurred because had they our loyal media would have trumpeted that fact from the rooftops.
    But should teacher carry become common you're correct Peter, sooner or later there will be an accidental discharge, a wounded bystander, or some other misfortune. But that still must be weighed against far too many dead children from the admittedly rare cases of mass school shootings.

  19. “Arming the teachers” is the worst kind of sloganeering. Recruiting, training, and deputizing, willing school personnel might be a good idea but anything less is just reactionary foolishness.

    If you believe that having a Concealed Carry permit makes you an “Army of One” you have a dunce for a Commander.

    If we have slipped so far that we must have armed security in our schools, then let’s at least take it seriously enough to put together professional programs and fund them accordingly.

    Different missions require different personnel.

  20. Placing the weapon in a closed and sealed location within the classroom would help. having it with a biometric lock so only the teacher can open it, and also having an alarm system so that the office is notified when any gun safe is open would be a yuge step.

    I want teachers to be armed. The problem is that most teachers are liberals, and liberals are the ones who commit the most gun violence.

  21. Holy Crap, Peter. Where to start.

    RE: training levels:

    The Ohio program is training, both psychologically and firearm-wise, for their graduates to shoot better than the cops (not all that hard to do, because the overwhelming majority of cops can't shoot for crap) and, according to the article, also performs a fairly high degree of stress inoculation (for more info on that see Col. Dave Grossman's books).

    ….if a teacher defends his or her students using a firearm, and one or more of their bullets actually injures an innocent student?

    Most extremely unfortunate, but you would have us believe leaving an active shooter to continue his lethal rampage unmolested is a better choice?

    Armed teachers will want to be as sure as possible that they won't be targeted by trigger-happy officers, shooting at anyone they see carrying a gun.
    1) If the armed teacher program works the way it should, the cops will show up well after the event is over and the smoke has cleared. They'll need – as usual – mops, buckets, and blank report forms, not guns.
    2) Training, training, training. Something cops do not seem to be as good at as they would like us to believe.
    3) Not to worry – the Scot Peterson Brigade will be hiding behind their cars outside, not running the halls "shooting anyone with a gun." Of course, given recent history, that means they'll just shoot the victorious teachers when they exit the building….

    It's not as simple an issue as it might appear. No poop, Sherlock. Which is why brain-dead spineless bureaucrats in school administration and police departments need to be kept far, far away from policy and procedure decisions on this, and especially never allowed to make any decisions regarding what is trained and how that training is delivered. Read that article about the Ohio program again.

    Let's review: Active shooter shows up, gets past security, starts shooting. Choice 1: run, hide, cry, die in place. Choice 2: Wait for the Magnificent Minions of Law Enforcement to (eventually) arrive and see if they'll actually enter the building – more "die in place." Choice 3: return fire immediately. Hopefully, that's accurate return fire, at a distance that allows the defender to score hits. Even if it's not, a program done right will produce a situation in which the active shooter has to contend with incomng rounds from multiple defenders in multiple positions. Old proverb: "If someone is shooting at you and you wish him to stop, the fastest way to accomplish that is shoot back and score hits."

    See Divemedic's link to Corriea's post above.

    Are you the same Peter Grant we've been reading for the past several years, or has some DNC bot taken over the blog?

  22. "Are you the same Peter Grant we've been reading for the past several years…?"

    EXACTLY my thoughts when I first read Peter's posting….

  23. Peter – except in high schools, the teachers and shooters are notably taller than the children. Especially if the children are taught to get under their desks just like a tornado drill. In high schools – bring back the JROTC shooting programs, and arm the uniformed upperclassmen. (My great grandfather was whupped for leaving his rifle at home one day – who else would protect the little kids from catamounts and redskins?)

    As for the rest – any response is better than no response when death stalks the children.

  24. "Are you the same Peter Grant we've been reading for the past several years…?"

    Certainly appears so to me; thoughtful, realistic, and given to reasonable analysis.

    My first reaction was like many of you; Arm teachers who want to be armed. But then I thought, " What happens when a high school student takes that gun away from a teacher and starts using it? "
    Like Peter says, the outcry will be deafening and there will be lawsuits galore.

    I like JeremyR's idea about the safe and alarm.

    I am a strong believer in the true meaning of the 2nd Amendment. Having said that, we gun rights supporters do not seem to have the ability to thoughtfully consider the full implications of any policy, such as the one being discussed here, without appearing to be
    what the left calls us: reactionary nutjobs who foam at the mouth anytime any gun issue comes up. I know why it happens, but that doesn't change the perception.

    You may begin the name calling and declarations about manliness now.

  25. What a lot of people are overlooking is what's GOING to happen when an armed teacher is assaulted by the next incarnation of St Trayvon of the Blessed Hoodie (also a Broward County denizen, quelle surprise) and has to shoot them. At which point, we will have George Zimmerman 2.0, in which the teacher will be sued, along with the school, and be forced to leave the community to avoid the BLM / Antifa / NAACP lynch mob after him and his family. For all the good it will do; as we saw with Mr. Zimmerman, they will hound him wherever he goes and outright try and provoke confrontations. And just as a bonus, the schools most likely to have Trayvons (and Cruzes) are the ones most likely to have parents and governments most likely to go after the teacher.

    BTW, smart teachers will have figured this out in advance and will refuse to take that risk.

  26. The State of Utah has quietly allowed concealed carry permit holders to carry in any public school or University in the State. This has been in place for over fifteen years now. I personally know of several teachers who choose to carry at work. In that time period there has been only one negligent discharge, it occurred in a staff bathroom and the only casualty was a toilet. The teacher claimed that the gun discharged when it fell from the holster while the teacher was lowering their trousers. As I recall the teacher was disciplined but did not lose their job. As for liability issues I am fairly sure that this covered in the schools insurance policy as the schools are not permited to bar CCL holders as a matter of State law. Just how effective this is in preventing school shooting rampages I do not know, but I do know that Utah has not yet had one occur.

  27. BTW, smart teachers will have figured this out in advance and will refuse to take that risk.

    And the even smarter teachers figured it out and have already left teaching (see Divemedic's blog for more info). Which is one of the huge (but inevitable) problems with the Public Education Industrial Complex (aka "Feelinz R Us").

  28. And the even smarter teachers figured it out and have already left teaching

    Similarly, the only good policeman is the retired policeman. They can't dissent too much without ruining their social support network, but they can't help revealing they've decided not to do that work anymore.

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