Saturday, May 5, 2018

My Imaginary Gun

What if the shooter came in right.... now?

Because this is the world we live in now, I've been conducting a little thought experiment for almost two months. What would I do if a shooter entered my building, and if I were armed?

The thought experiment has been pretty simple-- at various moments during my teaching day, I imagine that a shooter has just entered the building, maybe nearby or maybe in another wing. My building is pretty spread out and sprawling, There certainly scenarios in which an active shooter situation plays out so far away from me that I don't even know about until it's over, or in which I find out from announcement, text, or fleeing students, and I simply take my students and go running out of one of the two nearby exits.

I suppose in some of those scenarios I could grab my gun and head toward the shooter. I don't know if I'm that brave or not, but I do know I would feel a primary obligation to stay with my own students and make sure that they had someone with them to help get them to safety and to help keep them from freaking out.

One of the things I immediately noticed as I started conducting the experiment was that the vast majority of the time, I am surrounded by students. If a shooter enters my room and I'm on the other side, I have to shoot past students to hit him (I always assume that it will be a him). If the shooter targets a crowded area, like a school assembly or a lunch period, there would be students between us and behind him. In the hall between classes? More of the same.

In short, in the vast number of scenarios that I imagined, I would have to be a well-trained sharpshooter with a weapon more accurate than a handgun to fire at the active shooter without hitting my own students.

Many of these scenarios would also require me to be carrying the gun with me at all times, which opens up its own set of scenarios that I did not really consider, other than to note that most of those scenarios are bad.

What if my class has enough warning to lock down in place, and I'm using the firearm to defend the door? This is a problem in my case because there are two doors into my classroom, and the take cover area for my room would have to be the space between those doors. In other words, I would have to make a choice about which door to stand beside, and if I guess wrong, there will be students between me and the other door I want to defend.

I could play this morbid game for weeks because there are so many alternative scenarios, and the specifics of each one make a huge difference. What if the shooter comes when students are doing a presentation, or doing group work spread out over two classrooms and the hall? What difference will it make if the shooter shows up during the period when my students tend to listen to me as opposed to the period when the students tend to dismiss everything I say?

And what would I do if, as is often the case, the shooter is a current or former student? Could I shoot at a student?

After conducting this thought experiment, I can say this-- while I can't say that a gun would never, ever be useful in a shooter situation, I can say that 98 times out of 100, it would not be helpful at all. And that's just assuming I would be properly and regularly trained enough to stay relatively cool under pressure. If I measure that against all the possible problems of having the gun on my person or in my room, I must conclude again that arming teachers is folly. Of course, the noise about arming teachers has gotten much quieter since teachers started getting all militant with strikes and walkouts and gathering around the state capitol.

Why conduct this experiment at all? Because that's the world we live and teach in now. Why did I stop the experiment? Same reason. My wife came home yesterday after spending a half day learning about how to stop bleeding in a gunshot wound victim. She spent a half day learning about packing material into wounds so that her ten-year-old students would be less likely to bleed out in a nightmare shooter scenario.

That's the world we live in-- a world in which schools think about this stuff way too much. So I'm going to do my part by thinking about it less. Thought experiment over. Don't arm teachers.

1 comment:

  1. Every time I do this same thing in my middle school, I can never see a successful outcome. We will be doing some form of ALICE training with our students next year. If teachers in my district start carrying, I am out. Nothing good can come from guns in schools.