My Dad Is a Marine Who Taught Public School. Here Are All the Arguments For and Against Arming Teachers.
OK let’s start here: I’m no expert. I’m a guy who makes videos for a living. But I do live in a neighborhood where there are shootings. I have seen people shot and killed. I have had a gun pointed at me (TLDR I was like 12 and I jumped behind a transformer box). I have had people try to break into my house at 3 AM. I have slapped up more than one mugger. I have been caught in a riot, and a crowd surge and a road rage incident, and I have been in the vicinity of two terror attacks. And I learned to shoot before I learned to walk. And I’m pro-gun (within reason), so I’m not the LEAST qualified person to write about the human response to chaos and violence and how that can affect one’s ability to handle a firearm as intended.
My dad is a Marine. He’s one hell of a Marine. He’s one hell of a shot. He understands escape and evade better than most people you’ll encounter. And he was a public school teacher in Baltimore for several years. There is no one I would better trust to be armed and responsible in a school shooter situation than my father.
And I still think arming teachers is a terrible idea. No matter how skilled you are with a handgun, facing one or multiple shooters with high-powered, high-capacity weapons in a catacomb of narrow hallways while trying to defend 4,000 panicked targets AND trying to reconcile your combat training or experience with the task at hand is shit. It’s actual shit.
It’s actual shit if you’re the right candidate, and it’s even worse if you’re the wrong candidate (I’ll get to that below).
Now, there is a way that arming teachers could potentially work, IMHO. I’ll get to that at the end. But first, here are the reasons it won’t.
1. Crossfire, Collateral damage and mistaken identity
if you’ve never been in or directly witnessed a terror attack, here’s what happens: chaos.
That’s it. Chaos. And a lot of confusion. There are a lot of active parties doing a lot of things that contradict each other. It’s hard to tell what’s going on or who’s who and all participants are on their own programs.
So…at least one of the following definitely happens:
-A teacher shoots the wrong student or another armed teacher. That causes more chaos.
-The police mistakenly shoot one of the armed teachers or a student who has taken possession of a downed teacher’s weapon. Or maybe an unarmed student who a teacher mistakenly identified as a shooter. OR a student who looks like a student who a teacher identified as a shooter. Bad information emboldens.
-Overall, the area becomes more difficult to secure because there are MORE GUNS. And chaos is exponential…
2. Bad Information
During an attack, you hear all sorts of reports: “multiple shooters” “there may be an accomplice(s)” “a teacher snapped” etc.
Hell, even during a regular, everyday single murder, you hear these sorts of things. For a good hour or so, everyone is an enemy combatant, and there are several spectre attackers looming on the other floors, or outside, or hiding in a locker with a bomb. The enemy is everywhere.
Like I noted in the intro, if you’ve never been in or directly witnessed a terrorist attack, you’ve probably got misconceptions about what happens to people’s perception during these events.
On September 11th, I was at my apartment on Delancey and Clinton (which is now a bike shop). That’s a solid 2 mile walk from ground zero. Pretty good distance, right? Enough time and space to gather your thoughts and process what’s happening right? No way.
On the morning of September 11th, hundreds of people were walking across the Williamsburg Bridge (my block) to get out of the city and pretty much everyone had a different story. People were dazed and covered in dust. Everyone was scared of everything. We were hearing about a third plane, about ground attacks in the financial district, all types of wild shit. That’s just what happens. Confusion reigns. Everyone is operating on bad information.
2. Violence begets violence, y’all
If I know you have a stick, I’m bringing a bigger stick. The first thing that will happen in a coordinated shooting event is that the known armed teacher (the new Marine who showed up this year) gets targeted first. He probably gets surprised and killed. His entire class gets killed, because they’re the first stop on the murder train. At least 30 people die. And his/her weapon is now the shooter/s’ weapon.
Oh but there are SEVERAL armed teachers! Certainly one of them will stop the shooter/s before more than one class is mowed down? Nah, son. Escalation is part of preparation. If there are too many armed teachers and the shooter/s feel threatened, the shooter opts to become a shooter/bomber to compensate (see also: Columbine)…big stick takes little stick.
3. Stopping Power
We should also mention stopping power. There are not many objects in a school that are going to protect you from a round from an AR, but even a center mass hit from a handgun may let you get several more rounds off. So if we are talking about a standoff situation (which I assume is the wild west fantasy y’all envision when you talk about arming teachers…complete with the theme from The Bodyguard), some of your armed teachers are certainly going to die taking down an active shooter. If there are 15 school shootings this year, we’re looking at losing more teachers in combat per year than US troops in Afghanastan (17 in 2017), so these teachers would deserve combat pay and veteran benefits. And uh…you know that ain’t gonna happen.
4. Talkin’ bout practice:
And here’s something you should know about training. It’s training. The reason boot camp breaks you down and rebuilds you is because it is not easy to take the normal human brain and teach it to work through that adrenaline pop+dump, ignore moral dilemma, think straight and kill efficiently.
The first time you see someone shot IRL, or have a gun pointed at you…it’s not like you expect. Most people panic. Some people freeze. Some people play tough or just get really curious and wander into the line of fire. There’s a very good chance that your training breaks down. And I say this having only seen people shot with handguns in everyday situations. I’ve never seen anyone shot with a high-powered rifle in combat. That sounds like, a horrible, horrible sight.
The flip side of this is:
What if your training is too good? What if your perception of threat is so well honed that you react prematurely? What if your combat training has achieved its goal of making you a machine that kills, kills, kills, and gets out alive. And what if your combat training was previously used IN combat? What if you have PTSD that hasn’t reared its head yet? What if it emerges in a classroom? Wanna put 4000 kids in a cement cage with that?
5. Child abusers, mad dog killers and white nationalist or ISIS infiltrators need not apply for this officially-empowered, unquestionable, guy-with-a-gun position:
Notice how I said “normal human brain” in the above paragraph? Here’s something no one wants to bring up. If you post a job opening for an “empowered man with a gun to oversee 4,000 teenagers”, how do you think that will effect your applicant pool? Think you’ll get 100% dedicated educators who also want to go to boot camp? Or do you think you the pool might be peppered with a few guys who just want to bust some heads? Maybe an actual Nazi or two? A molester here and there? Has anyone really thought this through at all???
Well, that’s all the reasons I IMMEDIATEDLY thought of to argue that iour energy may be better spent preventing school shootings rather than ill-equipping teachers for combat in an accelerating theater of school combat.
But there are ways that arming teachers COULD be useful. And it involves something that US lawmakers hate: looking out for American children and service people.
So here’s my pitch:
If you want to put six Marines on staff in every public school in America, don’t set them up to fail. Don’t put them in an impossible situation.
Set them up to win by doing the following:
First, ban assault rifles (let’s not get into semantics, they are assault rifles).
Next, put the same metal detectors in public schools in wealthy neighborhoods that you put in poor neighborhoods. Clear backpacks too. Solid steel doors with keycards. CCTV and safety mirrors FFS. And give every student an escape and evade course during Phys Ed.
AND THEN find 6–8 guys like my dad, vet them thoroughly, give them weekly counseling and assessments and put them in every school in America…and make it rain combat/hazard pay and family perks.
But don’t pretend the “arm teachers” solution is anything more than a phony ass hypothesis conceived to try to avoid dealing with the real issue. Don’t insult teachers or Marines with your god damn Die Hard musings.
I love Die Hard. I’ve seen it over 100 times. I love Kindergarten Cop too. It’s fantastic. But its not realistic. There is no bathroom.
This whole argument is a joke. We know the US will never fund anything that would accelerate our path to safe, efficient, world-class public education!