Experts: Arming teachers not the answer to stopping active shooters

Putting guns in the hands of staff members may be a decision that schools regret


Since the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook, it seems there has been a rash of legislative efforts across the country to legalize or, at least, provide the option for school districts to allow armed employees on their campuses. Just this month, a bill was introduced in the Mississippi legislature that would authorize school superintendents to appoint trained and licensed school employees to carry firearms for security. A bill was also recently introduced in Nebraska that would allow teachers and other employees to carry concealed handguns in schools.

While most everyone would like to have an armed school resource officer on their campus, the fact remains that many school districts simply do not have the financial resources to do so. It would seem logical then that the next best thing would be to allow a limited number of trained staff members to carry firearms with them on school property, but experts say that just isn’t true.

“I’ve always said that the only people who need to be armed on school campuses are police officers. Period!” school security consultant Patrick Fiel said. Fiel formerly served as executive director of security for the Washington, D.C. Public School System. “Teachers and administrators need to focus on what they’re good at – teaching.”

Paul Timm, president of school security consulting firm RETA Security, believes that schools need to concentrate their efforts on bolstering access control measures and communications capabilities instead of arming staff members.

“The only person or persons that should be armed in schools should be police officers. Why? Because that is their job and they have all kinds of standards and training requirements that they need to follow to make sure they’re operating with that weapon as safely as possible,” explained Timm. “If we open this up to staff members, you’re going to get someone who doesn’t get the same kind of training standards and who has not been tested over and over again in situations of duress. You’ll get some who have been waiting their whole lives to wield a weapon, you’ll get others who will say, ‘I’m the designated person, but the last thing I’ll ever do is fire that (gun).’ You won’t get any real consistency like you have with local law enforcement and that’s an issue.”

For example, Timm said if a school district were to authorize one person at each of its schools to carry a firearm, what would happen when that individual is not on the premises. “We run out of balance really quick when we open the door and if we say, ‘well, everyone should be able to carry,’ then we have really wild cards going on because some people will operate quite differently from others,” he said. “We’ll regret it; I just really think we’ll regret it.”        

Although most of the legislative proposals being pushed by state politicians call for teachers or administrators having to go through some type of training or certification process, Fiel says it just doesn’t measure up to the continual training that law enforcement goes through to carry a firearm.

“The training and the procedures that police officers go through constantly with their weapon, their training and shooting… it’s just different,” said Fiel. “Plus, police are trained in the event there is a (active shooter) situation, but it’s going to be more dangerous when a teacher, who we don’t know, has a weapon on display when police and emergency responders arrive. It could be an uglier situation.”   

In addition to a lack of proper training, Fiel said another problem with arming teachers is that those that carry a weapon may fail to properly store and secure it. “Now you have more weapons on campus and this is what we don’t need. We don’t need kids having access to weapons,” he said.

Timm agrees that allowing teachers to carry guns on campus would create the risk of students gaining access to them.

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