Make Schools Safe for Kids, not Criminals:

In a new podcast for the Independence Institute's, I offer a shorter version of an argument I made in detail in a cover story of The Weekly Standard: the only realistic gun control policy which would stop school shootings would be to completely prohibit firearms, and confiscate the entire existing supply of more than 200 million firearms. Lesser policies (e.g., one-gun-a-month, gun registration) would, whatever their other merits, be unlikely to have a significant effect on school shootings. There are no substitutes for firearms (in both offensive and defensive situations), because firearms are fairly easy to use, and can project force at a distance.

Constitutional problems aside, it seems completely implausible to believe the gun prohibition could be successful, given the ability of the black market to supply drugs (which have been illegal for almost a century) to a wide variety of consumers, including high-school students.

The second-best--and much more realistic approach--would be to allow licensed, trained teachers and administrators to possess concealed handguns on school property. I agree that having police officers on school grounds would be very helpful, but it seems that there are not sufficient police resources to cover all schools all the time.

In 2004, I detailed how Israel (which has a well-established Swiss-style [civic duty] gun culture) and Thailand (whose government is very anti-gun) have armed teachers in order to protect schools against terrorists.

Today, Wisconsin State Represenative Frank Lasee stated: "To make our schools safe for our students to learn, all options should be on the table." (USA Today). "Israel and Thailand have well-trained teachers carrying weapons and keeping their children safe from harm. It can work in Wisconsin." (The USA Today article said that Israel has armed security guards, but not armed teachers; however, the sources cited in my Israel/Thailand article, supra, state that Israel has both.)

The left-side column of my home page has more links to articles by Independence Institute authors arguing that the false promise of "gun-free school zones" has made schools into one of the very few places in the United States where would-be killers are guaranteed not to face the risk of armed victims who can fight back and save lives.

Generally speaking, I have heard very few serious arguments against an armed teachers policy (for the minority of teachers who would want to carry, and would undertake the serious training which many thousands of certified firearms instructors would gladly provide for free).

Some critics state that schools are, statistically, still relatively safe, mass murders notwithstanding. This is true, but it would still be beneficial to reduce the number of children and teachers who are murdered.

Other people worry that a student might steal a teacher's gun. Putting aside the fact that it's not that difficult for a determined person to get a gun somewhere else (e.g., stealing from someone's home), the risk could be addressed through policies requiring that the gun always be carried on the teacher's body, or through similar policies.

Some persons are fearful that an angry teacher might shoot a student. But if you think that the your children's teachers might kill your child, if they had a weapon, then you ought to get your child out of that school as soon as possible. There might be too many mediocre teachers in some schools, but I don't that American teachers are borderline killers.

Finally, there are arguments that are really nothing more than generalized objections of armed self-defense, as well as to armed police. E.g., "What if the teacher aimed at the killer, but missed and hit a student?" This is always a risk--but it's a far smaller risk than allowing a killer to aim at his victims methodically. Police officers sometimes miss too, but that's not a reason to disarm the police.

"But the police are highly trained." Fine. Set the teacher training standard high too. A teacher does not need every component of police training — such as how to react if a driver in a traffic stop tries to kill the police officer. If you want teachers trained to the relevant police levels of skill in Close Quarters Combat, go ahead. Personally, I think we would be better off with a larger number of teachers who had at least a moderate level of training, rather than a small number with expert training. But even a small quantity of teachers with the tools to protect their students would be a good first step.

There are plenty of teachers who would not want to carry a firearm; of that group, some would, however, be interested in training with and carrying defensive sprays, or in learning some basic techniques of unarmed combat--particularly, how to disarm someone when his attention is distracted. I wouldn't advise anyone to bring Mace to a gunfight, but I do think that any form of skilled, practiced resistance is better than passively allowing students to be lined up against a blackboard and murdered.

If you are interested in the topic, you may also be interested in my media column which will appear in the Saturday Rocky Mountain News, which explores the terrible problem of how media coverage of school shootings leads to more school shootings. One prong of the problem is sensational coverage which publicizes the perpetrator (e.g., newsmagazines putting perpetrators on the cover). But the larger problem is that even sober, responsible coverage seems to play a role in causing copycats. For the latter problem, I have no solution, but I hope that starting the discussion might lead to other people suggesting solutions.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Training to resist school shootings:
  2. Make Schools Safe for Kids, not Criminals: