Tuesday, April 18, 2017

PA: Let's Arm Teachers?

Apparently it's education crazy season in Harrisburg, with one ill-advised ed bill after another. But fear not-- at least one PA legislator wants some of us to start packing heat in school.

Senate Bill 383 intends to amend the school code, with the intent of "providing for protection and defense of pupils.

Sponsor Donald C White, who was an insurance salesman back before his 2001 election, explains the reasoning here:

In the aftermath of a number of tragic school shootings, the debate continues across the country on how we can better protect our children. While most of this discussion surrounds whether or not more gun control measures are needed, I believe we must look at all options when it comes to improving the safety and security of our children, teachers and school staff....

My bill would allow school personnel to have access to firearms in school safety zones if they receive authorization from the school board of directors, are licensed to carry a concealed firearm and have met certain training requirements in the use and handling of firearms (as outlined in my proposal)...

As we weigh our options, I believe we need to consider providing school employees with more choices than just locking a door, hiding in a closet or diving in front of bullets to protect students. With the legal authority, licensing and proper training, I believe allowing school administrators, teachers or other staff to carry firearms on the school premises is an option worth exploring. 

No. No, it's not. Here's why I don't think it's an idea worth considering.

1) The window of opportunity is tiny. 

From start to finish, active shooter events are short, short things. Chances are mighty slim that a teacher will have a chance to do a thing. An FBI study of active shooter incidents found the vast majority were over in less than five minutes.

2) Shooting in high stress situations is hard.

Military personnel and police train with their firearms a lot. A lot. Because when you are all of a sudden in a life or death situation and you have to pull out your gun and use it, there are many problems. Your hands are shaking. Your perceptions are flooded in adrenaline. You have to make a split-second critical decision when you were teaching verbs thirty seconds ago. Shooting a gun at a target when you have time to prep and aim and think is plenty hard enough. Under "combat" conditions, it's infinitely harder, unless you are a highly-trained individual.

Using a gun requires a professional. Amateurs with guns are bad news.

3) Collateral damage.

You may think that picking off the shooter while children are running past you in screaming chaos will be just like picking off bad guy bosses in Call of Duty, in which case you are exactly the person I don't want to be packing in my building. You're an amateur with a gun. There's one shooter and a hundred children; I figure the odds that a child is going to be hit by friendly fire are somewhere between "unacceptable" and "horrifying."

4) Confusion on the scene.

Let's say that law enforcement manages to arrive before the scene has played out. They walk in the door and see four people wielding guns. What do you think they should do at that moment? Last summer in Dallas, when a sniper was picking off police officers, a crowd full of Rambo wannabe's just created more confusion for law enforcement. If you were a shooter, you could not concoct a better scenario to give yourself cover than to have a bunch of civilians with guns running around while police were trying to find you.

5) Guns in schools. Where there are also children.

Here's a fun story. A third grade teacher at a private school in Chambersburg,, PA went to the bathroom, took off her holstered and loaded sidearm to do her business, and left it there on top of the toilet tank in the same restroom that the students used. For at least three hours. It was, in fact, children who brought the event to the authorities' attention.

There are so many nightmare scenarios that come from trying to keep a firearm secure in a building filled with children-- particularly when the firearm is being kept secure by someone whose main business every day is a hundred things other than keeping a firearm secure.

For the vast majority of schools, an active shooter event is something that will never, ever happen. But we're going to start putting firearms inside those buildings, watched over and operated by sort-of-kind-of-trained amateurs? Reasonable people can disagree about gun control (though unreasonable people often dominate the conversation), but this is just a bad idea. This is not how to make my students safer.

If you're in Pennsylvania, contact your Senator and tell him to vote no on SB 383.


  1. People proposing such laws have never, ever been in a classroom. I'm sure of it!

  2. I can see the flawed reasoning. Teachers are not trained law-enforcement personnel, and do not have the training or temperment to be packing artillery in the classroom.

    BUT- I have absolutely no problem with having trained, armed security guards in schools. I live in Metro WashDC, and some of the public schools in the city, are in rough neighborhoods. Statistically, schools are very safe, the number of children injured or killed in school buildings is very small. More children drown in their bathtubs, than are killed in school.