Teachers across the country are moving to the head of the class when it comes to learning how to use a gun.
With mass shootings seemingly becoming common place in classrooms across the country, teachers are learning how fire grade-A shots and starting to carry weapons in class. It’s an attempt to better protect their students and prevent the next Sandy Hook Elementary School or Columbine High School shooting.
Nearly a third of the country, a total of 18 states, allows adults to carry a loaded gun on school grounds, with certain permissions. But ever since the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012, in which 20 children and six adults were shot dead, some states have pushed for safety training initiatives for teachers to learn how to properly fire a weapon and prevent any threats to the classroom.
Hundreds of school teachers in Ohio, Colorado and elsewhere have been trained by an organization called Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response (FASTER). The group, operated by Ohio-based Buckeye Firearms Association, conducts a program that was created along with concerned parents, law officers and safety experts, according to a description of the group on its website.
The program provides 26 hours of hands-on training over three days and exceeds the requirements of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, according to FASTER officials. It entails practice scenarios in which the armed protector must find and subdue the threat as students flee a classroom.
In addition to the combat training, those who attended the exercise were also given combat casualty training where they learned how to treat injuries at the scene with bandages and a tourniquet.
“The purpose is not to replace police and EMT, but to allow teachers, administrators, and other personnel on-site to stop school violence rapidly and render medical aid immediately,” reads a description of the program.
Most recently, more than a dozen Colorado teachers received training from FASTER after a request by Coloradoans for Civil Liberties, which felt that the training was necessary for teachers in more rural districts with remote first responders.
“By and large rural school districts, who have made the decision that law enforcement is 30 to 45 minutes away,” Laura Carno, founder of Coloradans for Civil Liberties, said to KUSA. “They are their own first responders.”
In Colorado, the law permits school staff members to carry concealed weapons, contingent on a permit and a designation as a safety officer.
FASTER operates under the belief that along with other preventative measures, teachers packing guns can help provide the first line of defense should a shooter come on campus and open fire.
“Similar to pilots who carry guns to protect their passengers and crew (something that has worked very well in spite of all the anti-gun predictions of disasters), school staff need the tools to protect their children — not just from fires or abuse, but also from a killer in the room,” read a section from a FASTER white paper that describes the program. “If we have someone willing to lay their life on the line, it’s our responsibility as a society to give them the tools, skills and permission needed.”
The group boasts that similar programs have worked in states like Utah, Alabama and Texas and that at least 23,000 schools – nearly one-third of all public schools in the U.S. -- already have armed security on staff.
FASTER was first enacted in the Buckeye Firearms Association's home state of Ohio after dozens of school districts allowed teachers with concealed carry permits to bring weapons to work in 2015.
“The safety of our kids should not be a controversial issue. This is not about guns,” Jim Irvine, with FASTER and the Buckeye Firearms Foundation, said to Fox News at the time. “For nearly 60 years, not one student has died from a fire. That is due to a redundant, overlapping approach to safety.”
“We should be copying that same method for incidents of violence in our schools," Irvine added. "You need something that is effective. Show us another method and we would invest in it.”
Although some teachers already carry weapons, not everyone is on board with the training.
Detractors of the FASTER program have recently raised concerns that there are more political motivations behind the program being offered in Colorado.
“FASTER was created and is promoted by the Ohio state gun lobby,” Ken Toltz, founder and co-chair of Safe Campus Colorado, said to KUSA. “Bringing it to Weld County is an attempt to lay the groundwork for another legislative push in the 2018 session to loosen Colorado’s gun laws.”