Are Your Campus Officers Properly Armed?

In this column, I will surely upset more than a few. I am going to talk about something no one likes to consider: gunfights on campus.

Campus Security Work Is Inherently Dangerous

For 20 years I carried a gun. In fact, on most days during that period of my life when I was a certified campus police officer, I carried a service revolver or pistol, a back-up handgun in an ankle holster and a police shotgun and/or tactical rifle in my patrol vehicle. Without these weapons, I would be very dead by now. I also feel quite certain that if I had not carried “enough gun” I would probably have been forced to shoot several individuals who took significant steps toward attacking me with a gun, knife or other deadly weapon.

I can assure readers who have never experienced it that a person advancing toward you with a bayonet from an M16 rifle is a rather remarkable and unforgettable experience. I did not have to kill this person because I used enough gun, and I employed it quickly. I helped the suspect understand very rapidly that her decision to bring a knife to a gunfight was a poor one, and we both lived through the ordeal.

Here are a few observations from 20 years of advanced training, more than 50,000 rounds fired in training for gunfights and dozens of very close calls where I survived due to intensive planning and preparation.

The Less Weaponry You Carry, the More Likely You Are to Use It

An officer with a handgun is more likely to be forced to pull the trigger than an officer holding a police shotgun, carbine or rifle in the same circumstances. For security and police use, a handgun is a weapon of convenience and political correctness. The service handgun is one of the least accurate firearms available, is difficult to shoot well under extreme stress and is less likely to instantly stop an armed assailant.

While it is not practical for campus officers to perform routine patrol duties with long guns, having them available in patrol vehicles or other secure locations might be appropriate in many instances. With proper training, long guns can reduce the chances that shots will be fired on campus, bystanders will be killed or injured by stray bullets or that an armed assailant will attack in the first place.

Many Officers Do Not Receive Enough Firearms Training

Training should be realistic, requiring officers to fire the same ammunition they carry in their weapon and to fire and reload their weapon from a variety of positions (flat on their back on the ground, seated at a desk, in a car, under a car, over a car, on a police bicycle, while handling a police K9, etc.). An officer who is supremely confident is less likely to shoot. An officer with multiple force options (pepper spray, open hand control and restraint, collapsible baton, stun gun and the like) is also less likely to resort to deadly force.

The more campus security and police officers are prepared for a gunfight, the less likely they are to ever have to encounter one. Properly training officers and properly equipping them with the right tools for the job can help avert gunfights on campus. By using enough gun, campus safety officers can confront weapons violators safely most of the time.

An internationally recognized authority on campus safety and the author of 19 books on the topic, Michael Dorn is the senior public safety and emergency management analyst for Jane’s Consultancy. Dorn, a member of the Campus Safety Advisory Council, works with a team of campus safety experts to make campuses safer around the globe through Jane’s offices in nine countries. He can be reached at

For the unabridged version of this article, please refer to the November/December 2006 issue of Campus Safety Magazine. To subscribe, go to

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About the Author


Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at 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.

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