Most Americans, regardless of which side of the political aisle they are on, agree that one of the primary roles of a government is to ensure public safety. From national defense to protection of our civil rights, there lies a proper role for the government.
What then, is the government’s role in protecting children in the school system? Schools in 33 states are bound by state laws to produce and file school safety plans. Many schools that can afford them have School Resource Officers (SROs) who are members of local law enforcement. They patrol the halls, and interact with students. These SROs are prepared to defend their students if the unthinkable, wich has become an all-too-regular occurrence, takes place.
Experience has taught us that if there is an act of violence in a school, someone eventually dials 911 and members of the local law enforcement respond, usually after injury or death has already occurred. Think Columbine and Arapahoe High School in Colorado, and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Most agree that these expenditures on school safety plans and SROs are legitimate governmental expenses needed to keep children safe.
What about those schools that have armed staff as their only means to protect their students? An increasing number of schools are arming staff so that someone can respond to a violent threat, such as an active shooter, right there on the school premises. David Kopel and Joseph Greenlee, in a previous column here, detail why students are safer when we “get more guns in the right hands.”
In schools that can’t afford an SRO, or in rural schools that are far from law enforcement backup, many have teachers and administrators who are concealed carry holders on campus. They have volunteered under Colorado law, and are now armed first responders in their schools. This responsibility comes along with a significant need for training. Part of having a gun in the right hands means making sure that person is professionally trained to stop a threat. And that means advanced training.
In Colorado, we recently offered our first FASTER class to train these school staff members to stop an armed attacker, administer emergency medical care, and a host of other skills meant to save lives. FASTER stands for Faculty / Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response, and has been successfully offered in Ohio for more than 5 years. Our first class in Colorado trained 17 school staff members, including teachers, principals, superintendents and a janitor. We have a Colorado training team made up of highly decorated, active-duty law enforcement officers that includes SWAT team members, a Police Officer Academy Curriculum Chairman, and full-time law-enforcement trainers. Two of the trainers have responded to active killer events in Colorado.
The obvious question then is: Who should pay for this type of lifesaving training? It’s a tricky question. Many school districts and state education agencies don’t see this sort of training as a part of their duty to protect students, or as part of their continuing education for teachers and administrators. Because we can’t rely on government entities to act and fund this training, it falls upon the rest of us to do so. We have a duty to protect school children when their safety is under attack.
Our first FASTER Colorado class was funded by donations, most of them small, from ordinary Colorado citizens trying to do their part. At approximately $1,000 for each FASTER participant, it takes a lot of smaller donations to fund a whole class. Are there larger organizations out there that might have an interest in funding this kind of training? I believe so.
Think of the corporate goodwill to be gained if a company like Glock or Magpul or Cabela’s committed some of their foundation donations to training armed school staff, in addition to their sponsorship of the shooting sports. What if manufacturers of firearms, ammunition and accessories competed to be, “The official firearm (or ammunition or holster) of FASTER training”?
If you are a consumer of firearms related products, would you have a more favorable opinion of a manufacturing company that sponsored training for these armed first responders, or a less favorable opinion?
Those of us who carry firearms do so because we understand that we are responsible for our own self-defense. We understand that despite their best intentions, law enforcement cannot be everywhere at every moment. We know that the faster an armed threat in a school is stopped, the faster medical care is delivered, the fewer people are injured or killed.
Providing life-saving medical and firearms training to those on the front line in our schools, those who have volunteered to protect our school children, is the next logical step for industry executives to take. We should give our school children the same opportunity to survive an attack that we so willingly give ourselves.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.