My take: Buying guns for teachers with taxpayer dollars

Education Secretary Betsy Devos caused an absolute firestorm this week when word got our she’s mulling over using federal funds to purchase firearms for teachers.

Recent legislation passed in March prohibits any of the $50 million allocated for school safety to be spent of weapons. However, the federal “Every Student Succeeds Act” of 2015 doesn’t specifically address firearms or firearms training. It’s a loophole some say Devos could use to purchase firearms for teachers.

Those opposed to guns in classrooms are already taking steps to close the loophole.

Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Murphy introduced a bill yesterday that would stop school officials from spending federal funds on guns. Similar legislation is already being drafted by other lawmakers. And teachers’ unions strongly oppose arming their members.

The matter is far from settled and, like most contentious federal issues, will likely play out in court.

I’m a strong proponent of hardening our schools and arming select staff — period.

However, we have to be very, very careful about what we expect armed school staff to do.

Their mission needs to be narrowly defined.

First, firearms cannot be issued to all staff. They should only be carried by select staff members who are ready to accept the heady responsibility of possessing a weapon in a classroom full of children.

Ideally, teachers would use them to enhance the security of their individual classrooms. In my humble opinion, this would entail storing the pistol in a biometric pistol safe — something secure but readily accessible. This is the easiest option as it requires the least amount of training.

Then, in the event of an active shooter, the teacher could lock their classroom, barricade the door, access the pistol and shoot any threat that enters their room.

That’s the best role for an armed teacher — protecting the students in their classroom.

Only if a teacher is willing to undergo rigorous training — including weapon retention training — should they be allowed to carry concealed.

What makes me concerned — very concerned — is when so-called security experts talk about deploying teachers as some type of quick reaction force within the school to take out an active shooter.

This is a recipe for disaster.

I’m not saying a teacher shouldn’t neutralize a threat if they have an opportunity, but hunting down an active shooter in a school full of children demands very special skills that are not easily attained.

The marksmanship and tactical training needed to neutralize an active shooter requires the type of precision shooting practiced by military special operations units. And these guys train constantly to keep their edge. They’re not bogged down teaching third-period French.

Whatever Secretary Devos decides, I hope more taxpayer dollars are spent on training than on the guns themselves.

Our schools need to be hardened, but we need to be smart about it.

We need switched-on teachers who can secure their kids more than we need poorly trained novices skulking the hallways with guns they haven’t fired in months.

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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