Making schools as safe as possible should include armed, well-trained staff

Making schools as safe as possible should include armed, well-trained staff
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While school safety is always an important topic, another massacre at yet another school reminds us that despite all the efforts taken to secure schools, these mass killing events continue to happen. Everyone agrees that something has to be done. Some are calling for more gun control, better background checks, more investment in mental health, and other measures. Some of those prospective solutions are either unlikely at keep criminals from being criminals, or they would take a long time to implement.

One safety measure that can be implemented right away, for a minimal cost, is authorizing existing school staff members to carry concealed firearms on campus. Those authorized would be volunteers, would need to have a valid concealed carry permit, and would be subject to their school board’s requirements for initial training, ongoing practice, and annual recertification. Most states have some provision for allowing armed staff, and no staff member would be required to carry a firearm against their wishes.

Several states, including Colorado, have laws that waive governmental immunity in the event of school violence, allowing parents to sue the school. In 2015, the Claire Davis Act was passed in the Colorado legislature, named for Claire Davis who died at the hands of a killer on her Arapahoe High School campus. The act allows for civil suits to be filed, compelling school districts to prove that they used “reasonable care” to prevent “reasonably foreseeable” acts of violence. Consider a standard like the Claire Davis Act being applied to the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida — even with just the missteps and blunders that have publicly reported thus far.

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Mass casualty events at schools from Columbine to Sandy Hook to Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, all have stories of brave teachers, coaches and administrators who gave their life to save children by placing themselves between bullets and kids. Why should the school employees have only the option of dying to protect kids? Why shouldn’t they have the option of protecting kids, and saving their own lives —and the lives of children — in the process?

 

Of the thousands of school staff that are carrying concealed across the country now, there have been no reported incidents of problems. Training programs, such as that offered through FASTER Colorado, ensure that these armed staff members have the best training possible. FASTER training is an intensive three-day training program for school staffers who are authorized to be armed on their K-12 campus. The curriculum came from Buckeye Firearms Foundation, the Ohio-based organization that has been conducting this training for the past 5 years. FASTER is taught by active-duty law enforcement trainers, including SWAT officers, who are advocates of armed school staff. They know that by the time they get to the scene of one of these mass-casualty events, it’s too late.

Some who oppose armed school staff have a list of all the bad things that can happen, but there is no list of all of the bad things that have happened. That list simply doesn’t exist.

Many schools have a School Resource Officer (SRO) or other armed and uniformed security guards. Those resources are very helpful and can reduce injury and death in the event of violence on school grounds. But they are not a fail-safe. Many of these monsters had intricate plans that involved “taking out” the SRO first, a diversion plan that draws the SRO to another area of the building, or waiting until the SRO moves to another part of campus. In these cases additional armed staff, whose identities and firearms are concealed, can be that added “reasonable care” measure that stops the killer and saves lives. 

Should schools spend time on mental health discussions and hardening their physical buildings? Of course, they should do everything they think might work to save lives. But we advocate for an “all-of-the-above” approach. In addition to any other security measures schools take, they should also allow armed staff to stop the threat if all the other safety ideas fail. It can be implemented immediately. Well-trained, armed staff has the greatest potential to stop a threat and save lives. 

Laura Carno (@LauraCarno) runs Coloradans for Civil Liberties, a collaborative effort with the Independence Institute (@i2idotorg), a free market think tank in Denver.