Home Education On the issue of arming people in schools

On the issue of arming people in schools


BUSHMASTER AR-15I oppose putting more guns into schools

A policeman with a sidearm will be no match for someone with the AR-15 Bushmaster shown above. I do not want to turn our schools into armed camps.

I wrote a version of this as a comment in an on-line discussion about Terry McAuliffe’s proposal to place armed policemen in every school in the Commonwealth. Since then we have had a parallel proposal from Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association to have armed NRA trained volunteers in every school. Governor McDonnell has argued for training school personnel to carry weapons as a means of keeping students secure. All three are wrong.

Keep in mind there was an armed policeman at Columbine.

Keep in mind that the Fort Hood shooting took place in the midst of a heavily armed military base.

And keep in mind that just as LaPierre was holding a press conference, a man was walking down a highway in rural Pennsylvania shooting people.  He killed three and wounded several others, including State Policemen, before he himself died.

The best use of policemen in schools is the building of relationships.

Please continue as I offer my thoughts beneath the fold.  I write this as an educator, someone who had military training with firearms, and someone who is well aware of how unprepared even trained police are to handle a situation like Columbine or Sandy Springs Elementary.

Since I am back in the classroom in an inner city school in DC which has a DC police officer there on a 1/2 time basis, and since I taught for 13 years in a high school in PG County where the local community (City of Greenbelt) assigned a resource officer there starting about 17 years ago, perhaps I am in a position to comment about things like the recent proposals such as that of Terry McAuliffe.

One officer per each elementary school may well not be cost effective.  At Eleanor Roosevelt we had from 2400-3200 students during my tenure there.  Many elementary schools in Virginia have at most a couple of hundred kids.

AT ERHS we had two other school security people who were not armed but were authorized to make arrests on school property and at school bus stops.  I saw several such arrests take place during my tenure, including putting a girl in handcuffs at the door to my room when they inspected her bag and found 90 grams of marijuana.  

The real security is less the one armed person – let’s be frank, even if that officer is wearing body armor a head shot takes him out and certain readily available rounds will go right through that armor.

The issue is less protection from the outside than it is an additional resource who builds relationships with kids and thus finds out when there are possible internal problems.  Remember, Columbine was not attacked from the outside, but by disaffected kids who attended that school.  It is rare that something like that does not get noticed by other kids and what prevents more such tragedies is when kids tell adults.  That is how a possible tragedy was just averted at Laurel High School.

Remember the attack on the Capitol by the insane guy who was off his meds?  He shot and killed TWO armed US Capitol Police.  Just having an armed policeman does not solve the problem.

The idea of having more guns in schools is frightening.  First, even most policemen are NOT trained for how to fire in a crisis situation – their qualification is using stationary targets without adrenaline pumping.  Even trained police sometimes get tunnel vision – the way a quarterback does on a receiver and failing to notice the defensive back who promptly picks off his pass.

What kind of ammunition?  If it is NOT frangible, then even if shooting a real threat, the chance of a through and through hitting a bystander and/or ricocheting around is significant.  If a frangible round is used, anyone hit by that round is probably going to die because of the internal injuries before you could transport them to a hospital, hell, before you could respond an ambulance.

There are some schools where it is necessary to have metal detectors and x-ray machines.  I teach in one now, although our staff are not searched or checked, so were one of us beserk we could easily get a weapon in.  

One man tried to blow up a plane with a shoe bomb.  Now we all have to take our shoes off.  But we are not all checked for every kind of explosive, and someone determined to get a bomb on board still has a high probability of succeeding.  Meanwhile the rest of us are discomforted and inconvenienced.

When they first starting requiring metal detectors I pointed out to a friend in federal law enforcement that I could easily get a weapon on board. A knife made of obsidian would NOT trip a metal detector, and actually holds a sharper edge/point that almost all metal cutting instruments, which is why some are used in very delicate surgery. I pointed out that the handle/hilt could be my heel and I could pull it out of my shoe – this is about 3 decades ago.

If I could find ways of beating the system, I am sure someone determined could still do so.

I think Terry McAuliffe is taking a position of political expediency, which while not as bad as McDonnell urging the arming of school personnel, is still stupid.

We should remember that the vast majority of school shootings – and workplace shootings – are not done by random outsiders, as was the case last Friday. Most school and workplace shootings occur because of perceived grievances by members of those communities. If we want to keep our schools safe the last thing we need is more guns in schools – and colleges.

I remember an off-the-record conversation with one state’s top law enforcement official after Virginia Tech, when one of us asked him if he thought have students or teachers armed could have stopped the tragedy. Himself the owner of many guns he argued it would have made it worse. What if an undercover officer pulled out a gun, might someone else shoot him? If you think this is a stretch, remember that at Tucson Jared Loughner had been disarmed while he was reloading by unarmed civilians. A man with a concealed carry permit came out of the market, saw a man with a gun, unholstered his weapon and took off the safety and was about to fire when he realized the man holding the gun had taken it away from the shooter.

Remember the collateral damage by trained policemen last year in New York City when a lot of civilians were hit by police rounds.

As a long-time teacher, who has taught in the comfortable suburbs of Arlington Virginia and now teaches in an inner city DC school, the presence of additional guns does not make students – or faculty – feel any more safe.

There is a role for police in some school settings. But it is not one of total security. It is a physical impossibility at a school the size of Eleanor Roosevelt to operate normally with total security – we had more than 20 temporary buildings outside, and too many entrances to be checking every person going in and out. We depended upon common sense actions by the adults in the building to direct outsiders to the main entrance to check in. On a college campus are we going to have only one entrance to each building, secured by a metal detector and an armed guard.

As a teacher i want to assure the safety of my students. I want my fellow staff members to feel secure. Our building contains in two schools running from 6th grade up fewer students than we had in one grade at Eleanor Roosevelt. It is possible for us to operate with only two entrances, to have students and visitors go through metal detectors. We only xray at the entrance used by the high school students, we hand inspect bags at the entrance used by the middle school students.

More guards or armed people or police – these do NOT address the issue of too many guns with too much firepower too easily accessible to people who might do us harm.

Yes we need to address mental health issues.

We are less than 5% of the world’s population, yet we have over half of the world’s firearms.

We also have the highest rate in the world of deaths from firearms of any industrialized nation.

We may have violent video games, but so does Japan, yet they have NO mass shootings and the national total of gun deaths in a country with a population of over 100 million is less than that of some major US cities.

It is our gun culture that we must address and address honestly if we truly want to keep our school children safe. We certainly do NOT want more guns in schools.


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