With Concealed Carry Laws, Operational Uncertainties Confuse School Administrators

This former principal describes the questions and concerns he and other K-12 officials would have should a person who is not in law enforcement legally bring a gun onto school property.

I believe another consideration that is receiving little discussion is the real possibility of a teacher or staff member actually having to shoot at an armed student or parent. In the majority of places where the permitting of conceal carry on campus is being considered, communities are smaller and the people are well known to each other.

As historic evidence reveals, the middle school child who is known by the staff for his/her inability to maintain friendships may well be the student who brings a gun into the crowded lunchroom. Will the teacher who has worried over this child for the last several weeks be the same one who ultimately shoots him?

Many opponents to personal carry point out the possibility of students overpowering a staff member to acquire their gun, while others point to the possibility of a gun being found unsecured by students. Yet, as a principal, my concern focuses on one of the most common incidents among those who routinely handle firearms: the negligent discharge.

As recent events in Idaho and Utah demonstrate, negligent discharge (ND) can and will happen in a school setting. Will they be rare? They should be. Will they happen? If we can draw from military and police data, NDs happen when firearms are a constant in the environment. While a negligent discharge in a police ready room or a military unloading zone is nerve jarring and merits a procedural investigation, an ND in an elementary classroom will create a barrier few parents will care to scale.

Consider Deputizing Designated School Employees
In all of these considerations, the real point of discussion should focus on local law enforcement response time. In locations where police response is predictably protracted, an onsite armed response may well be in order. Both my business partner and I ascribe to a “sheepdog model” patterned after air marshals. In this model, individual school employees who wish to be considered for conceal carry deputize with local law enforcement, submitting to the same evaluations and training as sworn officers.

In an attempt to summarize my own perspective on this issue, I believe that the widespread allowing of staff and visitors to bring firearms onto a school campus creates operational vulnerabilities that did not previously exist. At this point, no data suggests that allowing guns on campus mitigates the threat of an active shooter. As a simple economics equation, I see predictable cost with no discernable benefit.

Brian Armes is co-founder of Educators Eyes. He previously was a teacher and school principal. For more information, visit educatorseyes.org.

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

Photo: ThinkStock




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Active Shooters, Concealed Weapons, Policies and Procedures, Safety, Visitor Management

Comments:

By fasteddie565 on January 5, 2015

As a security consultant that has spent a great deal of time analyzing the armed faculty member in a K-12 environment and have also trained hundreds of faculty members, there has to be some structure to the program.

Our philosophy is that these armed faculty and staff members are not a response force, but an enhanced delay force.  Even though our clients, all of whom have firearms locked inside of their classrooms, not on their person have been hand selected, interviewed and trained by LE SWAT Instructors and US Army Special Forces personnel, with sustainment training coming from state and local LEA’s, we train them to be enhanced delay assets.

If you remove the firearm to remove the drama and replace the firearm with a fire extinguisher or an AED, you see that these faculty members are not there to replace LEO’s and are not there to “Hunt” the bad guy just as they are not firemen or paramedics as they deploy the other equipment.  They follow their lock down procedures as does everyone else, however, if the shooter gains entry into their classroom, they are armed and trained to engage the shooter, as opposed to some of the valiant yet much less effective unarmed ambush techniques.

As we teach active shooter prevention and response across the country, people think I am going to give them some “Green Beret Ninja fighting secret or some such nonsense to defeat the shooter and relieve them of the need to use a firearm to stop an active shooter. Sadly, the only way to stop an active shooter is with a better trained active shooter.  Period. While we understand the grey areas of selecting, interviewing and training faculty and staff and the challenges of having firearms in a school, analysis of the physical security paradigm shows response time to be the most important factor in defeating this threat scenario.

Assuming that you can safely place firearms in a K-12 environment, this is by no means a panacea. Administrators must invest in the delay features that will slow the progress of the threat until students and staff can effectively lock down. Sandy Hook was an excellent example of this. Instead of an assault planner analyzing their PS needs, they used a technology company that mitigates with what they sell.  You simply have to control access to both the campus as well as the building without a huge impact on the educational process.  The last piece is coordinating a response with Local LEA’s in the event of a shooter. Perhaps the most ridiculous thing I have read lately was a local PD doing a active shooter drill without the knowledge of the school administration. Seconds count under fire and LEA’s need to know the communication plan, who to call, access points to use and the availability of any other assets that speed their response to the shooter.

I have no issue with telling every CCW holder that works in a school that they must abide by my rules to carry on campus. I also understand the legal ramifications at the local and state levels on these policies.  My takeaways are these:

The only effective mitigation to an active shooter, is a better trained active shooter. Understanding that pistol craft is a rapidly deteriorating skill.

Staff members with firearms are not LEO’s just as they are not firemen or EMT’s when using a fire extinguisher or AED.

Armed staff members are not a panacea. Having firearms on campus is only part, albeit an important one, of a comprehensive and effective physical security program.  Stop wasting your money on cameras that no one watches and pay for a quality security vulnerability assessment and then be willing to demonstrate the leadership to ensure that these security measures remain in place.

By mitchc on December 29, 2014

I fully respect the arguments brought up in this article. However, how does the school deal with an off duty police officer who may or may not have a child attending school there? Aside from a uniform, there is little or nothing to distinguish an off duty PO from a citizen with a legal CCW permit. Although I am from NY, I also grew up in a household with firearms, learning respect, proper safety and securing of weapons, being comfortable around them rather than afraid.
Approaching the person isn’t something I would recommend, as it potentially puts that teacher or administrator in harms way. Thinking out loud, so to speak, I think that a person with a legally carried weapon should register at an office upon entering the grounds and be given an identifying visitor badge, possibly RED in color to advise that this person is legally armed, and no lockdown should take place. This would include any plainclothes officer or off duty MOS as well, unless on undercover assignment.
There is no easy answer to this, but cool heads and logic needs to be used to resolve this in a uniform manner.