Arming untrained teachers puts our kids at greater risk

In April, the U.S. Senate struck down gun control legislation that would have required universal background checks for gun purchases and imposed limits on gun magazine capacity, among other measures.

Standing with family members of victims of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, President Obama declared that this is only “round one” of the ongoing gun control debate, which has been at the center of the national discourse since the Dec. 14 attacks.

While the debate rages on, most are agreed on one thing: the loss of 20 children and six teachers on that day awoke the nation to the need for heightened security, especially in our nation’s schools.

In the wake of this tragedy, there is growing support among Second Amendment advocates for arming teachers with guns.


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The sentiment is understandable.

Columbine, Virginia Tech and now Newtown are all stark reminders of the havoc that can be wreaked by evil people with guns.

However, the overly simplistic proposal to arm all teachers is a knee-jerk reaction of monumental proportions that could ultimately hurt their cause. To say that it is not well thought out would be a gross understatement.

America’s Constitution secures the right to bear arms. The right to self-defense is as American as apple pie, and gun control legislation like that proposed by the Obama administration runs directly against our character.

Still, placing a third party in a position of defending our young people deserves vigorous debate and contemplation.

Nothing could be more important than making sure the people who defend our children are adequately trained to do so.

Many assume that learning the skill of armed defense is simply a matter of taking a position on the firing line at the local range and shooting tight groups at a non-moving target.

While range exercise is important to becoming proficient with a firearm, it does not adequately prepare one for real confrontation.

Make no mistake about it: A teacher who is placed in a position of defending others will step into a foreign world of armed confrontation where unforgiving bullets fly.

As Lt. Col. David Grossman, a world-renowned expert in the field of human aggression, has noted, interpersonal human aggression is the “universal human phobia.”

While we talk tough at the water cooler, a firefight is certainly not Monopoly or Bingo. This is where so many overlook a compelling and frightening reality.

Armed conflict causes an adrenaline effect, which influences a person’s ability to mount a real and effective defense. When a person assumes a defensive posture, the natural physiological and mental reactions change the playing field in significant ways. These reactions include tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, heavy breathing, increased heart rate, profuse sweating, time dilation and the unexpected release of urine and defecation from the body.

Most people have not been trained to deal with these natural reactions. As a result, individuals who may be justified in using lethal force become incredibly dangerous to themselves and others.

Only intense and consistent training can address this issue.

Let’s be clear: There is nothing inherently wrong with putting guns in the hands of teachers. However, it would be wrong to saddle untrained teachers with the responsibility of protecting our children simply by placing a lethal weapon on their hip.

They need adequate training.

The eight or even 40 hours of training that's typically the standard for entry-level personal defense courses is simply not enough to expect a teacher to be prepared for what an armed situation would require.

Military personnel and police officers immerse themselves in training with firearms defense, and even they get it wrong at times.

So, how should we go about protecting our children and keeping our schools safe? We must place adequately trained armed guards, such as police officers and military men and women, in schools. Such protection would create a deterrent effect for any would-be killer.

The NRA’s report, which outlines security needs and suggested training requirements for keeping our schools safe, is an important step in determining what we can do as a nation to protect our precious children.

Experience demonstrates the way to stop violence is with countervailing force. However, an effective trained response takes serious time, money and resources to create. This responsibility must not be taken lightly.

Law enforcement agencies and the U.S. military allocate significant resources to train their people to defend their country, their communities, their teammates and themselves. In the heated debate over defense and gun laws in recent months, we have overlooked this important fact.

Unfortunately, sweeping gun control laws like those put forward in the Senate do not address the fundamental issues that compromise our safety.

The problem is not guns or magazine capacities, but the evil people who manage to get their hands on guns, regardless of laws.

Sadly, we often consider solutions without thinking beyond next week; in the process, we create a more dangerous society.

We have at our disposal common-sense solutions to the problem of gun violence in our schools. The blanket proposal to arm all teachers without intense training is not one of them.

Let’s move to address the problem with real, viable solutions. After all, this is America, and few things are more important than allocating money to protecting our children and our future.