Arming the Teachers?

Arming the Teachers?  Has anyone who is proposing this actually tried to operationalize the concept…What we sometimes call “Walking the Dog”?

Let me take a first “shot” at it, although I’m sure I’ll miss some of the details.  One thing to bear in mind:  The school must be as safe after arming the teachers as it was before arming the teachers.  We can’t introduce additional, steady-state risk into the schools to protect against low likelihood events.

1.  Let’s start with the fun stuff:  The weapon. A good handgun suitable for a range of users might cost around $600 to $650 in quantity.  In this situation, I’d recommend the SIG P239 in 9mm — either the decocking double action/single action or the DAK.  The P239’s magazine holds 8 rounds and is single-stack, which makes the pistol a bit narrower and suitable for a wider range of hands.  Who pays?  We can hardly expect the teacher or the school district to pick up the cost of the pistol, so: Initial funding:  Shooting Community.

2.  Regardless of how good the weapons are, they will still need regular checks and maintenance.  That means a certified armorer.  This could be a contract to a commercial vendor or a reimbursement to a local law enforcement agency.  Recurring funding:  Shooting Community.

3.  With the armorer comes an armory.  It needs to be in a secure location and have an alarm system.  That could be on school property, or space could be “rented” from a local law enforcement agency.  Initial funding:  Shooting Community.  Recurring funding:  Shooting Community.

4.  We’ll need gun safes at the school and in the teachers’ homes.  At the school, to be effective, a gun safe would need to be installed in every classroom, activity area, and administration area.  Because this is a school, these would need to be very solid and tamperproof, and connected to an alarm system.  A biometric lock is preferred, and since different teachers would be using the gun safe at different times, the biometric data will need to be centralized.  At home, biometrics would not be needed, but the installation would need to be approved by the school district, since they are responsible for the program.  Initial funding:  Shooting Community.  Recurring funding:  Shooting Community.

5.  Training is very important.  A responsible armed citizen must understand how the firearm works, how to perform cleaning and other light maintenance, be an accurate shooter, understand use-of-force law and policy, and demonstrate judgmental shooting competence.

Initially this will require several days of classroom, non-shooting, instruction by certified instructors. After the classroom, our teachers need to spend time on the range for normal target shooting, and also shooting in stress situations that simulate what might happen at a school or during school activities.  One-on-one training may only require a single instructor, but two or more students will require one or more instructors and a range safety officer.  Finally, a practical exam for judgmental shooting — this is last because if the teacher can’t pass the other activities, they won’t be in the judgmental situation anyway.

An annual recertification will be required for the classroom and judgmental portions, and either quarterly or semi-annual range re-qualification.  This means classroom space (granted — this might not be a problem when dealing with schools), range time (which isn’t free), and a determination whether or not the teachers are “on the clock” — similar to in-service training.  Volunteer instructors might be “free” but you still need a professional to certify them.  Initial funding:  Shooting Community.  Recurring funding:  Shooting Community.

6.  Protocols.  Usually overlooked, these are the rules of engagement for the armed teachers.  Protocols set the priorities for action, the specific actions to be taken in different situations and at different threat levels, location-specific actions, responsibilities, etc.  These must be compliant with state and local laws, be acceptable to the school’s risk manager, and be practical to execute.  This kind of planning isn’t cheap.  Initial funding:  Shooting Community.  Recurring funding:  Shooting Community.

Funding:  This is an expensive program — both initially and in the out years.  I did not assign the cost to the “Shooting Community” lightly.  While the direct beneficiaries of this program are somewhat difficult to nail down, the leading secondary beneficiary is the Shooting Community.  These are the people crying the loudest for armed teachers, and these are the ones who feel that they are at greatest risk should “they” decide to “take” “our” guns.  But if gun ownership is such a precious right, then gun owners will gladly put up the cash.  (Cash, by the way, is far less than the price they expect our men and women in uniform to pay to protect our freedoms.)

How to collect the funds? The problem is that most communities or school districts don’t have the resources or funding streams to bankroll either the initial or recurring costs.  So a state or federal funding mechanism will need to be established.  Once the funding managers are established grant programs could deal with individual school district requests.  However, a federal surcharge or tax system would be the most fair, to prevent people crossing borders to purchase taxable items.  Consider:

  • A surcharge on all ATF weapons transfers — something in the range of $75 to $200 dollars per transaction.
  • A tax on all ammunition, bullets (or shot), cases, primers, powder, and bullet molds.
  • Federal registration and a fee on all magazines capable of holding 10 rounds or more — that’s all high-capacity magazines, not just new ones.  (Laser-etched bar-code and human readable serial numbers at the owner’s expense.  ATF records of transfers, loss, or theft.  Transfer fees.)

I’ve painted a pretty expensive picture.  But which of the topics above would you cut and still consider the school safer?  But either the problem is serious, and worthy of the funding, or risk doesn’t justify the cost of competent armed teacher programs.

Other issues I haven’t discussed:

  • Transportation of the weapons between home and school.  (CCW?)
  • Armed teachers during off campus events (field trips, sports, etc.)
  • Gun clearing stations.  (A potential safety issue — but how do you keep kids from messing with them?)

Oh…And a few closing questions…Perhaps the most important ones.  Is this what teachers want to do?  Is this what we want our teachers to do?  Is this what being a teacher is all about?  Why should teachers be the last line of defense from extreme societal failure?

The author is a retired military officer, a gun owner, and (surprised?) an NRA member.

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