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OPINION: Don’t Arm School Teachers

More guns in the hands of minimally trained people will not calm things down; it will make them worse. Photo courtesy Flickr/kdcsTM

More guns in the hands of minimally trained people will not calm things down; it will make them worse. Photo courtesy Flickr/kdcsTM

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Avery Rollins

The Mississippi State Legislature is considering a bill to arm teachers in classrooms, but its passage and implementation would be a mistake.

The bill includes a mandate that armed teachers have an enhanced concealed-weapons permit and receive 36 hours of handgun training each year. By comparison, FBI Agents in training have 110 hours in firearms training and fire approximately 5,000 rounds. The agents are required to qualify quarterly.

More guns in the hands of minimally trained people will not calm things down; it will make them worse. One of the best-trained law enforcement departments in the U.S. is the New York Police Department. The NYPD basic handgun training for their officers is 80 hours. Between 1998 and 2006, NYPD officers only hit the intended target 18 percent of the time in gunfights. That's one shot out of five. So if Mississippi armed teachers and gave them only 36 hours of training to shoot as well as an NYPD officer, four of their five bullets will go through walls, down hallways, and injure or kill our children. More likely, handguns that teachers use in classrooms will result in more accidental shootings, suicides and homicides than they would ever be used against a school shooter.

Furthermore, where and how do teachers protect or conceal their weapons in the classroom? Does a teacher leave the classroom unprotected to go off and confront a shooter? Also, shooting a person who potentially wants to shoot you takes steel nerves and quick reflexes, or else you die. Would a teacher have the training to not just shoot, but to shoot accurately under fire?

Arming teachers who might have taken a 36-hour firearms class and expecting them to act in the face of an active shooter with students in panic and other armed teachers nearby could invite even more carnage.

If someone is in such distress that he is going to shoot up a school, the risk of being shot is not likely to deter him. It is usually an act of suicide—with the shooter knowing he will die or spend his life in prison. Arming school personnel will not prevent these incidents.

On Oct. 1, 1997, 16-year-old Luke Woodham killed two students and injured seven others at Pearl High School. Before the shooting began, Woodham stabbed and bludgeoned his mother to death in her home. He was armed with a Marlin Model 336, a .30-30 lever-action rifle. If he had an assault rifle, the carnage would probably have been greater.

Fortunately, the school's assistant principal, Joel Myrick, retrieved a Colt 1911 .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol from his truck and apprehended him.

Myrick is against arming teachers. A New York Times article dated Feb. 21, 2018, said, "That was a topic Mr. Myrick, who vividly recalls the damage that a relatively slow lever-action rifle caused on a high school campus, wanted to discuss, too. 'If Luke Woodham had an AR-15, he probably would have killed 20 people instead of two,' he said. 'There's not a soul on the planet who needs an AR-15 except military.'"

What can we do to prevent school shootings? Place police substations near schools where possible. Have a certified active or former law-enforcement officer in or near schools. Have schools hold regular shooter drills. Put hardened, bullet-proof, lockable doors on each classroom. Create an active campaign to stop school bullying and identify children with psychological issues. Limit the availability of multi-round pistols and rifle magazines to 10 rounds. Limit the availability of assault rifles to the public.

Civilians have no need for an assault rifle. Those guns are designed for one thing: to take human lives as quickly and as efficiently as possible. An American citizen with a background check and proper license can own a machine gun, so assault rifles should be licensed in the same way. Giving our children a learning environment safe from the threat of school shootings is an expensive proposition. Are our children worth it? I know my grandchildren are.

Avery Rollins was an FBI Agent for 31 years and a firearms instructor for 23 years. He was involved in one fatal shooting for which he received the FBI Shield of Bravery. Follow him at @AveRollins.


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