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Armed Teachers… Crazy Idea?

A surprising proposal could hold the answer to school shootings.

By Ed Kardauskas, CPP, PSP, PCI, CHSII, CAS

Legislative and rule changes that would allow some licensed and qualified teachers to carry
concealed firearms as a last resort defense against shootings in schools are being proposed
throughout the country. Is this a form of mass insanity, or an example of the axiom that it is socially
unacceptable to be ahead of one’s time in the vanguard of a solution that has not yet been embraced
as common wisdom?

The best way to examine the issue is to wait until the shouting from proponents on both sides has
died down, and then to take a look at the historical facts.

The first and most obvious fact is that the “Gun Free Zone” signs in our schools have not made them
gun free any more than the “Drug Free Zone” signs have ended that scourge. Pretending that they do
is akin to whistling past the graveyard.

If signage alone were effective, we could eliminate the TSA screenings at airports and just leave the
signs prohibiting guns, bombs, and knives in place to manage the risk. Not many folks would be
comfortable with that, yet that’s the tactic we use in most of our schools.

Law enforcement tacticians who understand the mind set of killers have noted that almost all active
shooter cases occur in locations with signage prohibiting firearms, and they are now seriously
questioning whether “Gun Free Zone” signs may actually increase danger and invite attack by
announcing the absence of effective defenses.

The second issue is that school leaders don’t always acknowledge that, while programs that rely on
early identification of persons at risk for violence are an important component of an effective plan,
they are highly porous and miss many serious risks. There have been some great success stories,
and some spectacular failures, with Virginia Tech being one of the latter.

Both the FBI and the Secret Service have concluded that there is no profile of an active shooter, and
behavior based screening methods depend on someone noting and reporting actions of concern. The
reality is that sometimes people who observe violence precursor behaviors recognize and report it,
and sometimes they don’t. Another weakness is that these programs are completely ineffective
against outsiders who are not in the scope of the screening efforts. It is noteworthy that the majority of
the worst active shooter incidents in primary schools were committed by people who were not part of
the school community.

Virginia Tech had both rules prohibiting firearms possession on campus, and a process for pre
incident risk detection. In an August 2006 editorial for the Roanoke Times, a Virginia Tech Associate
Vice President declared, “Guns don’t belong in classrooms. They never will. Virginia Tech has a very
sound policy preventing same.” Tragically, we saw how the protective effect of that “very sound
policy” played out in the real world.

The third issue is that nearly all schools have an active shooter response plan that consists of calling
911, ordering a “lockdown” of rooms not directly affected yet, and waiting for police to resolve the
situation. Even without considering that many institutions with these plans also have classrooms that
don’t lock from the inside like those at Virginia Tech, very few have effective mitigation training or

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equipment for the people in the greatest danger – those in the immediate area of the incident who
don’t have an escape path available. Left to their own devices, many victims take ineffective action
like crouching under desks, and behave submissively as the killer moves about shooting one after
another. The accounts of the surviving Virginia Tech students who describe in detail what happened
in their classrooms are both chilling and highly instructive and can be found on YouTube.

History shows that active shooters attack victims rapidly once an incident begins, shooting 3, 4, or
more people per minute. The offender at Virginia Tech fired 170 rounds in about ten minutes, or
roughly one shot every 4 seconds. The May 8, 2009 issue of the Force Science News reported that,
in a study of nearly 100 active shooter incidents, Ohio police training academy manager Ron Borsch
found that the killers deliberately race to complete their slaughters before police arrive, and do so in a
post-Columbine average time of just 8 minutes. He also found that police intervention stopped the
killing in just 6 cases out of that group – a 6% success rate.

These facts are sobering. In 8 minutes, over 20 people can easily be shot. The very low successful
police intervention rate is due to the reality that very few police agencies can process the calls, travel
to the scene, and take effective action within that time frame. It wasn’t done successfully at Virginia
Tech, even with a full SWAT team on alert, suited up, and standing by when the incident happened.
Preparedness just doesn’t get any better than that, except by accident when an officer happens to be
in just the right place at exactly the right time.

This data also raises another serious issue. One could and should question whether an emergency
action plan that fails to limit casualties over 90% of the time meets the legal requirement to provide a
safe workplace environment for faculty and students alike.

Putting tools and methods aside for a moment, the issue here is essentially a time problem. The most
frequently employed solution almost never has a positive effect on the number of casualties because
it can’t be brought to the scene and delivered within the offender’s operational time frame.
Overwhelming force delivered too late doesn’t save lives.

When you think about it, we face a similar challenge with fires and medical emergencies, and we
address them much differently. We know that a small fire can grow into a very large and dangerous
one in the short time it takes for the fire department to respond, and we recognize the fact that
immediate action can limit losses and save lives, So we provide fire extinguishers and trained
personnel to suppress the flames until professional help can arrive.

In medical emergencies, we know that someone whose heart or respiration have stopped will almost
certainly die if we just wait for professional responders, and we provide first aid kits, AED’s, and
trained personnel to stabilize and support injured and ill people until the ambulance gets there.

Yet when it comes to defending our school children from violence, we seem to have a collective blind
spot. The fact is that we lose far more children each year to school shootings than we do to fires, yet
very few institutions have an effective mitigation plan for the people most affected – those in
immediate contact with the attacker. Not surprisingly, active shooters are successful in killing and
injuring large numbers of victims in virtually every school they strike, and unless we start doing
something differently, we can expect this shameful state of affairs to continue. This should be a
matter for deep concern for administrators, faculty, parents, and students alike.

Mr. Borsch’s research showed that about half the successful interventions were by unarmed persons
at the scene when the incident began. They limited casualties because their counterattacks were
applied right away by people who were already there. As you might expect, not all such courageous

©2009 AmericanSchoolSafety.com, LLC. All rights reserved

actions were successful since an unarmed defender must close to contact distance in order to affect
the attacker, while the armed killer can deliver deadly force rapidly and at a distance.

This is a good time to return to the original question - what would happen if the defenders had the
means to deliver incapacitating force at a distance, just like the attacker?

Once again, let’s look at history. In the Pearl, Mississippi, school shooting, after a number of students
were shot inside the school, the principal went outside and retrieved a personally owned handgun
from his vehicle. He then held the attacker at gunpoint until police arrived. His actions prevented the
attacker from driving to a second school where he had planned to continue his rampage, and did so
without firing a shot.

At the Appalachian School of Law, when an active shooter began his attack, two students went
outside to their vehicles, retrieved handguns, and confronted the offender, who dropped his weapon
when faced with the immediate threat of deadly force. No shots were fired by the defenders.

At the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, an armed female church volunteer used a concealed
handgun to engage an attacker who had shot multiple people outside the church and had stormed
inside armed with a semiautomatic rifle and about 1000 rounds of ammunition. When he ignored her
orders to drop his gun, her defensive fire disabled the attacker, who then committed suicide with no
further injury to innocents. The pastor later stated that her action had unquestionably saved scores
and possibly even hundreds of lives.

When emotion is put aside and we look at the cold hard facts, is allowing certain qualified and
licensed teachers to carry the means to immediately end a classroom killing really so crazy? Maybe
not so much. One could make a reasonable case that it’s crazier to continue doing the same things
that have consistently failed to protect lives in the past while expecting a different result in the future.

What do you think?

About the author:

A former Captain with the City of White Plains, NY, Police Department where he served as the
commanding officer of the Uniformed Operations Division, the Burglary Squad, the Crime Prevention
Unit, and the Training and Special Projects Division; Ed Kardauskas is a graduate of Manhattan
College and the FBI National Academy, and the fifth person worldwide to earn all three American
Society for Industrial Security board certifications -- Certified Protection Professional (CPP), Physical
Security Professional (PSP) and Professional Certified Investigator (PCI).He currently serves as the
Director of Risk Management Services for AmericanSchoolSafety.com, LLC.

For additional information concerning school safety, please visit www.AmericanSchoolSafety.com

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