Case For Arming Teachers

By R. Alan Harrop, Ph.D

Editor’s note: Mr. Harrop resides in our area, and is a regular contributor to this newspaper. 

The tragedy this past week in Uvalde, Texas, calls for a reassessment of student and teacher protection. This incident is another of several that show current procedures are not effective. The purpose of this article is to make the case for arming and training teachers (and other school staff) to assist in the defense of students and themselves against the evil of mass shooters.

Here are some factors to consider:

1) Response Time

Salvador Ramos, the killer at Cobb Elementary School in Uvalde, started shooting immediately upon entering the school through an unlocked door. As in most of these events, the perpetrator begins shooting within minutes of arriving. This makes typical response times required for outside help highly unlikely to arrive in time to save lives. Even a single resource officer on site is not likely to be where the shooting begins. The resource officer at Cobb Elementary was apparently not even in the building. 

2) Perceived Risk

In most of these tragedies, the perpetrator selects the target well in advance of the event. They seek places where they are likely to be able to succeed in killing as many people as they can before they are stopped. Usually they do not expect to survive and the act should be considered suicidal. The selection of elementary schools and other venues where armed opposition is not likely to be on the scene are purposeful. Venues where signs announce ‘Gun Free Zones’ are invitations, not a deterrence.

3) Courage to Act

From a psychological standpoint, there is a very substantial difference between defending oneself when under attack versus expecting someone to enter a situation, putring that person at risk of death. Police training can be a very effective way to prepare a person to enter a live shooting situation. However, it is not always going to be effective. The amount of courage we expect from an officer when called upon to enter a live shooting situation is extraordinary and not present in every responding officer. That is just a reality of human nature.  People vary on this trait like they do on every other trait. Importantly – as on the battlefield –  no one really knows how they will react until faced with the actual situation.  We would all like to think we would do the courageous thing, but we never know for sure until it happens. 

4) Right to Self Defense   The constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, including for self-defense. Do teachers not have that right?  Of course they do! Now some, even some law enforcement officials, will argue that arming teachers introduces more risk to the school environment than currently exists. However, proper and extensive training should mitigate any risk in that regard. If a school resource officer (police guard) can be properly trained, why not a responsible school teacher or other staff member?  

It should be noted this discussion should not be defined as armed teachers vs resource officer(s) since it is certainly feasible to have both. The innocent lives of our children and teachers demands that we have an open and thorough discussion of this situation.