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Nicholas Bergman

English 1201

Prof. Richardson

14 April 2019

Taking Back Our Schools: Arming Teachers and Other School Personnel

Imagine being at work and a co-worker turns on the television. Immediately, everyone

realizes there is another school shooting occurring, but this time it is happening in their

community. After watching for a moment, they see the name of the school scroll across the

bottom of the television screen and they suddenly become painfully aware that the elementary

school under attack is the same school their children attend. As they watch the scene unfold,

would they want their child’s teacher to be hiding helplessly in the corner of the classroom along

with the students hoping for the best, or would they want him or her to be armed with a gun,

ready to defend the life of their child? In high schools across the country, students practice

lockdown drills so they will be prepared in case a school shooting were to happen. Teachers lock

their doors and instruct the students to hide, but the expressions on the faces of the teachers and

students reveal the anxiety they both feel about what would happen if the shooting were real.

Some teachers verbally express the helplessness they feel because there is not much they can do

to protect themselves or their students, other than locking doors and hiding. The debate over

whether to arm school personnel is very controversial, but this topic is important because school

shootings are a reality that is becoming more common. Arming America’s school teachers and

other school personnel will make our schools safer because armed personnel will act as a

deterrent to potential shooters, will provide a reliable method to reduce the loss of life in an
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active shooter situation, and will provide peace of mind to parents, students and school

personnel.

In the past, schools were safe places for our children, but that is no longer true. School

massacres happen in this country because our society has established gun-free schools, which

means that no one is allowed to have a gun on school property. However, this is where the

problem lies. The school shooter doesn’t follow the rules and therefore is the only person on

school grounds with a gun unless the school has an armed resource officer or security guard.

Unfortunately, shooters often target these officers first, because once the officers are removed

from the scenario, the shooter has complete control of the situation. In 1995, a federal law passed

which prohibited guns from being allowed on school property. Before its passage, teachers and

other school personnel with conceal-carry permits could bring a gun onto school grounds in most

states (Lott). After the passing of the federal law in 1995, which banned handguns on school

property, school shootings in the United States began to increase and escalated beginning in

October of 1997 (Lott). Before 1997, school shootings, in which 5 or more people were injured

or killed, occurred about once a decade beginning in the 1970s until the 1990s. The gun-free

school policy in this country is not working, and the arming of school personnel in our schools

needs to happen sooner than later to provide the best protection possible for our children.

Arming school personnel will make our schools safer for students and teachers. One way

this will make our schools safer is that having armed school personnel will provide a deterrent to

potential school shooters. Imagine a person being threatened by a violent criminal and the

criminal finding out where they live. Would they want a sign in their front yard advertising that

their home is a gun-free zone? Probably not, yet that is what is advertised outside of the majority

of schools in this country every day. If school teachers and other staff members are armed, this
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will act as a deterrent to most potential school shooters. Teachers and other school personnel may

never even have to use their guns because the fact that they are armed will discourage most

shooters from even attempting to enter the school to harm anyone because they know they will

encounter opposition by the school staff. (Blanchette 88). Most individuals entering a school

with the intent of harming others do not want to encounter armed staff that will quickly put an

end to their reign of terror. Resident scholars at the American Enterprise Institute for Public

Policy have studied the effectiveness of deterrents. According to one researcher, John Lott,

deterrents work because they control a criminal’s actions. Deterrents work in a school shooting

situation because they take away control of the situation from the shooter and place it in the

hands of the teachers and staff. Most shooters are suicidal, but they have planned how they want

and expect their attack on a school to play out, so they have no desire to encounter armed staff

that can put a stop to their plan (Lott). Our national laws against various crimes and our prison

system act as deterrents to most individuals considering committing a crime. “Just as the threat

of arrest and prison can deter criminals, so can the fact that victims can defend themselves”

(Lott). When teachers and school staff are known to be armed, it will be a deterrent to most

individuals considering attacking a school. One good example that demonstrates how effective a

deterrent can be is the airline industry. Before the 911 terror attacks, airline pilots were forbidden

to fly with guns in the cockpit. After terrorists stormed the cockpits of airplanes on 911 and took

control of the planes and used them as weapons, Congress passed a law that allowed pilots to be

armed in the cockpit to prevent another similar attack (Darling). Today, if an individual decides

to storm the cockpit of a plane, the individual could face an armed pilot. Lawmakers felt that

arming pilots would deter an individual from storming an airplane cockpit again and would

provide the best protection from future attacks. The same principle could apply to schools.
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Armed school personnel would deter a school shooter in the same way an armed pilot would

discourage an individual from trying to enter an airplane cockpit. Deterrents have proven to be

an effective method for reducing crime and violence and would have the same effect if used to

protect our schools.

Fig. 1. This image shows that armed school personnel are a greater deterrent to a potential

shooter than a sign posted outside of a school building (DeBroux).

Similarly, school safety would also increase if teachers and school personnel are armed

because it would reduce the number of lives lost in an active shooter situation by reducing the

response time needed to stop the shooter. By making our schools gun-free zones, they have

become the perfect environment for a violent individual to enter the school and have total control

over the lives of the children and staff of the school. It is naïve to think that a person who has

decided to commit murder is going to change their mind because of a sign in front of the school

telling them that no guns are allowed on the premises. The only people that are going to follow

that rule are those that have no intention of harming anyone. As a result, the very people who

should be armed to defend themselves and the children in the school are left unarmed. In a CBC

documentary, former police officer Brian Proctor trains school personnel. Proctor says, “If

you’ve called 911, the killing has already started. You need to have someone on the premises
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when it starts to mitigate the loss of life” (Training teachers to carry guns in school 1:30-1:38). In

spite of objections by lawmakers and some citizens, many school districts across the country are

already arming school personnel in preparation for an active shooter situation. Although most

armed districts have decided to arm teachers because they feel it is the only way to stop a shooter

effectively, many school districts have made this decision because of their isolated rural

locations. Many rural schools are so isolated that it would take a very long time for law

enforcement to arrive and by then the number of dead or injured could be extremely high. In his

article entitled, “Is arming teachers a good idea? Depends on where you live.” Washington Post

reporter Gary Abernathy spoke with superintendents regarding their decision to arm school

personnel. For example, in the Bright Local School District in Highland County, Ohio, a school

district which has made the decision to arm their teachers and staff, the superintendent says,

“there is no local law enforcement within an 18-mile radius that we know will be on duty full-

time during the school day” (Abernathy). CNN reporter Nicole Chavez spoke with

superintendents from around the country, in her article entitled “These schools say arming

teachers ‘can be done right’.” The Northwestern Area School District in South Dakota also

decided to arm school personnel due to the distance between the district and law enforcement.

The superintendent of the district says that they trust law enforcement but they are over 20

minutes away. With armed school personnel, if a shooting takes place, they will have a fighting

chance (Chavez). Two school districts in Idaho have also chosen to arm school personnel. The

Mountain View School District is an hour and 45 minutes away from police, while the Garden

Valley School District is 45 minutes over the mountain from the sheriff’s office (Chavez). The

response time to help these school districts, should an active shooter situation occur, would be

extremely long and considerable loss of life would occur. Once an attack starts, the longer it
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takes for someone with a gun to arrive to stop the attack, the more injured and dead there will be.

New York Times reporters Erica Green and Manny Fernandez quote Shelby County, Ohio sheriff

John Lenhart in their 2018 article entitled, “Trump Wants to Arm Teachers, These Schools

Already Do.” According to Sheriff Lenhart, who supports the Sidney City Schools’ decision to

arm their teachers, “Every 17 seconds after the first shots are fired and the first 911 call is made,

somebody gets hurt or dies. Even in the best case scenario, we could get there in four to five

minutes, you do the math” (Green and Fernandez). In his book, Safe Schools Now Arming

America’s Teachers, the author Vern Blanchette discusses the negative effects of having to wait

for the police to arrive during a mass shooting. Even in the best scenario, police are not close

enough to schools to prevent the large number of injuries and deaths that occur during a school

shooting.

Studies have been made of the times required for the first patrol car to arrive on scene

after a high priority 911 call in several of our cities. A good number for a prompt

response time is about eight minutes. So the question becomes: How many children can a

murderer kill in eight minutes? (Blanchette 31)

Once the police do arrive, they can’t just race into the school. They have to set up a perimeter

and evaluate the situation. By the time they determine the number of shooters, call in SWAT

teams if needed and find the safest way to enter the building, many more lives will have been

lost. Armed teachers and staff in a school provide an immediate response time to the situation,

and the shooter will be stopped more quickly resulting in fewer deaths.

Also, armed teachers and school personnel will make schools safer by allowing the

wounded to receive life-saving medical care much more quickly than it occurs in unarmed

schools. During an active shooter situation, many adults and children die from wounds they
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received during the attack. Medical personnel are not able to enter a school until police have

secured the building and captured the shooter. This takes a lot of time and the result of this

additional time is the loss of life due to untreated wounds. Paramedics and first responders have

seen the results of a delay in helping victims.

If the teachers have control, medical help will come quickly. If the good-gun is not in the

school, then the killer-damaged children, the ones that manage to survive several gunshot

wounds, will lie on the floor bleeding to death with no chance of medical help reaching

them for some time. (Blanchette 87)

If schools have armed teachers and staff, then the school will be secured much faster, and as a

result, medical personnel will be able to enter the school and start helping those who are injured,

and will save many more lives. Christopher Burrows, who is the superintendent for Georgetown

Exempted Village Schools in Ohio, agrees. Burrows had his staff attend the Joe Eaton “Faster

Saves Lives” training. This specialized training provides more than just training in gun use. It

also provides training in medical, crisis and emergency management skills. The program director

Joe Eaton says, “The sooner that you stop the killing and start rendering medical aid, the more

lives which are saved. The way that you save lives is by first stopping the killing as soon as

possible and the second is by providing medical aid as soon as possible” (Ingram). Paramedic

Greg Friese who wrote about his experience after the Parkland, Florida shooting in his article

entitled, “Rapid response: School shooting EMS, police response has to be faster” reinforces the

idea that faster response time in reaching the injured and dying is vital for their survival.

Severe hemorrhage control is a race against the clock. Minutes and seconds matter.

Tenths of seconds might matter as well. Police, security officers and teachers who carry a
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firearm need to control the scene fast and stop the killing so paramedics can enter and

take over bleeding control and stop the dying from severe bleeding. (Friese)

After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the American College of Surgeons

and the FBI gathered a group of surgery and emergency medical specialists to discuss how to

increase the survival rate of victims in mass school shootings. The result of this effort was the

Hartford Consensus which concluded that they could not save victims who received immediate

lethal wounds, but the rapid control of hemorrhaging has a significant impact on the number of

lives saved (Fabbri). Armed teachers and school staff are necessary to bring a mass school

shooting situation under control quickly so that the needed medical help can get to the injured in

time to save their lives.

Armed school personnel will provide peace of mind for parents. Many parents do not like

the idea of guns in their children’s schools, but school shootings are a reality and the odds of one

happening where their children attend school is a very real possibility. A Washington Post poll

recently found that 44 percent of Americans support teachers and other school personnel carrying

guns on school grounds (Sargent). Parents take their children to school every day in this country

and trust that those in charge of them will take care of them. Parents should be able to feel good

about their child’s school and their education. Instead many parents are nervous and anxious

until their child steps off the school bus each day. Parents can be put at ease and have peace of

mind by arming school personnel. Many school districts like the Bright Local School District in

Highland County, Ohio decided to arm their teachers, and parents and the community supported

the decision. The superintendent of the district said, “Community response has been nothing but

positive…but we did it right. We talked to the community, we talked to organizations and we

held meetings” (Abernathy). Nicki New who is the parent of three students in the Sidney City
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School District in Ohio, which began arming staff in 2012, said she felt safer dropping off her

children knowing there were staff members equipped to respond to a parent’s worst nightmare.

“God forbid, if something would happen, knowing that not only a law enforcement officer is

there, but there are teachers in that building who can give my child a fighting chance, is even

more reassuring” (Green and Fernandez). Fox 13 News reporter John Cascio spoke with parents

of children shot in the Parkland, Florida massacre in his article entitled, “Many Florida schools

reject arming teachers, despite Parkland Commission recommendation.” Support is coming from

parents who have lost children in a school shooting. Andrew Pollack, who lost his daughter in the

shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, disagrees with those

that oppose arming school personnel. “They’re making a huge mistake. The training is so

intense, I’d be ok if the lunch lady could pass” (Cascio). Pollack strongly believes that arming

school staff would have saved numerous lives that day. Kevin Hansen of Sioux Falls, South

Dakota, who has three children in the school district, supports the arming of school personnel

and does not worry about any safety issues on the part of the staff. “I trust that the teachers and

the faculty all have our children’s best interest at heart. They’re from the community…it doesn’t

concern me at all” (Chavez). Armed school staff can provide the peace of mind that parents need

when leaving their children at school despite their concern over school shootings.

Likewise, arming school personnel will give them the ability to defend themselves and

give their students peace of mind in an active shooter situation. The results from school

shootings over the last few decades have shown that not arming teachers and school personnel

has resulted in greater loss of life. During the recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

shooting, several teachers and a football coach named Aaron Feis threw themselves in the way of

flying bullets to save their students. The coach was rushed to the hospital where he died from his
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wounds. He did not have to lose his life, and if he had been armed with a gun, he probably would

have lived (Mitchell). Teachers should not have to sacrifice their own lives to protect their

students. More and more teachers across the nation are pushing lawmakers to allow them to carry

guns on school grounds and they are also willing to take the necessary training courses on proper

gun use and safety. In a CBC documentary, librarian Jaycee Dailey receives active shooter

training and feels it is her right and responsibility to protect herself and the students in her care.

“I believe in the second amendment and I believe we have a right to defend ourselves. I believe

if someone is attacking us we don’t just sit and huddle. We have skills and we can defend

ourselves. I would like to know that my own child’s teacher was carrying a gun” (Training

teachers to carry guns in schools 2:00-2:35). Many teachers and school personnel across the

country are deciding to receive training to carry a handgun on school property. NPR researchers

Annie Wu and David Derosches investigate handgun training in their article entitled, “Educators

Fear And Embrace Calls For Concealed Carry In The Classroom.” Chris Cerino is a former

police officer who trains teachers and staff to prepare for an active shooter situation. Cerino says,

“We give them good marksmanship skills. We talk to them about closing the distances and using

cover, and we also talk to them about not shooting when they shouldn’t or can’t” (Wu and

Desroches). Colorado early childhood teacher Laurie Landers is frustrated with lawmakers and

their lack of urgency in protecting schools. She states,

I have 18 young children and two other adults who require my immediate, calm direction

and protection should a shooter threaten our utopian environment. Preventing a teacher

from the ability to carry a concealed weapon magnifies the vulnerability of themselves

and the children in their care. Until we find realistic ways to protect our classrooms all

we can do is duck and pray. (Is arming teachers in classrooms a good idea? Yes)
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In the article entitled, “Teachers With Guns Will Strengthen School Security,” reporter Kim

Spaulding uses statistical information to help show how arming administrators could save lives.

Oren Shemtov, CEO of Israel’s Academy of Security and Investigation says, “if the two

administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary had concealed handguns, the teachers could have

delayed the shooter for 45 minutes each, potentially saving numerous lives if not stopping the

shooter altogether” (Spaulding). In a personal interview, Englewood, Ohio elementary school

teacher Trisha Witzerman has concerns of her own.

I don’t like the idea of having guns in our schools, but I am also aware that in an active

shooter situation simply locking my classroom door and hiding is equivalent to doing

nothing. Being able to carry a handgun at school would relieve the anxiety I feel about

how I would defend myself and my students should a shooter threaten the school. I would

find peace in knowing I could actively protect the students and myself. (Witzerman)

Teachers have enough responsibility to deal with each day. Most feel a tremendous

responsibility to protect the children in their care. Having a handgun would give many teachers

and staff peace of mind and reduce the anxiety they feel over not being able to provide the

needed protection.

Similarly, students would also find relief from the anxiety and concern they feel about

school shootings if teachers and staff were armed. Children should be able to go to school

without feeling afraid or anxious. They should be free to learn and enjoy being with friends

without worrying about what would happen to them if a school shooter were to attack their

school. Armed teachers would make students feel safer. Currently, students spend a great deal of

time practicing active shooter drills which only reminds them of the possibility of a real shooting
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situation which negatively affects them and causes anxiety. According to Connecticut school

administrators,

Currently, in the case of an intruder, the only way school districts can react is by shelter-

in-place drills in which students and administration lock their doors and stay out of sight

from the hallways. If a trespasser has a gun, the only thing stopping them is a locked

door, a door that can only withstand so much. The only way to stop a gun is a gun.

(Spaulding)

Texas is one of many states across the country that has been arming their teachers and staff for

several years. Students in the Callisburg Independent School District in Texas say they feel better

knowing their teachers can protect them if the unthinkable happens’ (Chavez). A student at

Callisburg High School says, “I feel really safe knowing that, I can come to school and if there is

an incident that does happen, that they’ll be able to protect us” (Chavez). Arming teachers and

staff can help to lessen any fear and anxiety that children may have and they will feel more

secure at school and can begin to enjoy school again.

Many people believe it would be dangerous to arm teachers and other school personnel

because of the potential risks it could pose to students and staff. A potential risk in arming school

personnel is that the school staff will not have the proper skills and training to handle a gun in an

active shooter situation. Students and staff would be in more danger of being hit by a bullet from

a staff member’s gun in addition to the shooter’s gun. Many lawmakers find it challenging to

determine the amount of training that would be necessary for teachers to have so they would be

ready in a crisis. In an article for the American Public Health Association entitled, “Arming

Schoolteachers: What Do We Know? Where Do We Go From Here?”, Drs. Sonali Rajan and

Charles C. Branas, doctors in cultural and behavioral studies at Columbia University, researched
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the effects that guns in schools have on staff and students. “Although teachers are conceivably

capable of appropriately using firearms, no evidence-based guidelines are available to help us

develop the necessary training for teachers and continued instruction is needed to maintain their

preparedness so that they would be ready when a crisis strikes.” Some people wonder if students

will be safer with armed school personnel in an active shooter situation. In active shooter

training, police officers hit their targets less than 20 percent of the time, and many fear school

personnel will have even lower accuracy. Police officers wonder what targets the stray bullets

may hit. (Hansen). At this point, it is unclear how much training school personnel would need to

be safely armed. Another concern is that having armed school personnel will make the students

feel anxious and interfere in their relationship with their teachers. It’s shown that having an

armed resource officer in a school can cause a negative relationship between the students and the

officer. However, having a resource officer “with nonlethal force capabilities might be helpful in

deterring violent crimes in schools...the same positive relationship was not found with school

resource officers armed with a firearm” (Rajan and Branas). In their studies, Dr. Rajan and Dr.

Branas have observed that having an armed officer in a school has a negative effect on the

students at the school. There was also a study done in 2002 that showed most students prefer not

to have more security measures at school. “…heightened policing and intrusive security efforts

within public spaces decrease a student’s sense of safety” (Rajan and Branas). Students don’t feel

as safe when more security is implemented into their school. Another problem could be that

schools may have to face opposition from parents who do not want guns in their children’s

schools. “...a recent study that used a national sample found that more than half of the parents of

school-aged children oppose school personnel carrying firearms” (Rajan and Branas). Many

parents and lawmakers favor reducing access to guns and providing mental health services for
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youth rather than arming school personnel. Many individuals believe that arming school

personnel will result in more risk to the safety of students by providing easy access to guns for

students. Melanie Rogers, a registered nurse, writes about the safety of students and the

psychological effects on teachers having guns for the American Public Health Association in an

article entitled, “Is Arming Teachers Our Nation’s Best Response to Gun Violence? The

Perspective of Public Health Students.”

Firearms in a classroom present enormous risk to life, limb, and mental well-being…the

potential psychological trauma of forcing educators to fire a weapon at a shooter who

could be their student and injuring or killing students other than the shooter are all

possibilities that must be considered. (Rogers)

Rogers also emphasizes that the improper storage of guns could result in a student having access

to a gun and also the risk of theft. If teachers were to be armed, it could have a different outcome

than what many think. “...increased gun access and gun presence are not associated with

protection from violence, which suggests that increasing the presence of guns in the hands of

civilians in schools, no matter how well intentioned, may backfire” (Rajan and Branas). Even

though school personnel may have the best intentions, having guns in schools could result in

misuse or theft and become a danger to students.

What this argument overlooks is that the teachers that are armed in this country are

making their own decision to arm themselves along with the approval of their school

superintendents and state lawmakers. They are not being forced to carry or use a gun if they are

not comfortable with one. No one is suggesting that school personnel be forced to carry a gun.

Also, teachers that are being allowed to carry a gun on school property are being made to attend

special training that instructs them not only on proper gun usage but also on controlling the
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emotions and fear that come with an active shooter situation. In most cases, these teachers are

receiving more training than many police officers and to maintain their skills, teachers are

required to fire more rounds monthly than police officers are required to fire each month. Also,

they are required to have a higher percentage rate of accurate target hits to pass the training

courses (Green and Fernandez). The risk to students’ lives is not increased by armed school

personnel when guns are secured in lockboxes which are in hidden locations with school staff

being the only ones able to access the boxes. Those school districts that decide to allow their

teachers to carry guns are not a risk to students unless there is a student with criminal intentions

that tries to overpower a staff member to get their gun. If they are successful in their attempt,

they need to know that they will be labeled as an active shooter and the school personnel will

shoot them to stop the attack. It is important to remember that even in this scenario the loss of

life would still be less than if an active shooter situation occurred in a school with no armed

personnel and the shooter was able to shoot unimpeded until finally stopped by law enforcement

several minutes or hours later. The same is true if a teacher decided to open fire on their students.

They would become the active shooter and the armed staff would stop them. In these scenarios, it

is important to remember that nothing is stopping a teacher or student from bringing a gun to

school in our present gun-free schools and opening fire on the students. The difference is that an

armed staff would be able to stop the student or teacher faster than the shooting would have been

stopped waiting for law enforcement to arrive. As mentioned above, there is approximately a

50/50 split in this country on whether parents want school personnel armed, so it is just as likely

to be accepted as it is to meet resistance. Another concern by those opposed to armed schools is

that the presence of guns will make the students feel anxious and it will interfere with their

relationship with the school staff. As mentioned earlier, many students have stated that they feel
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safer and less anxious when they know school personnel are armed and will be able to stop a

school shooting immediately. Their concern is eliminated as to what they will do or where they

will hide to escape the shooter by the presence of an armed protector in their classroom ready to

defend them. A significant number of parents, teachers and students are comfortable and feel

safer with armed school personnel.

Terrible people exist in this world who want to hurt people and take innocent lives. The

current environment in this country allows a shooter to keep firing at students and teachers for an

infinite amount of time before law enforcement stops them. The time has come to arm our

teachers and school personnel. In virtually every other area, protection is provided when there is

a perceived threat to safety. Airline pilots, TSA agents in our airports, and even our politicians

have armed guards to protect them. Why then, do lawmakers hesitate to arm and protect the most

important thing of all; the children in our schools who are being threatened by an unseen

predator who strikes without warning and takes the lives of our most precious citizens. Armed

teachers and school personnel would be a significant deterrent to a potential shooter by impeding

the shooter’s original plan. If the shooter decides to attack a school, armed school personnel

would bring a faster end to a school shooting which would save lives and allow the

administration of lifesaving medical care to the wounded. Arming school personnel eliminates

anxiety and worry for parents, teachers, and students. The time for action is now before another

life is lost. Lawmakers, parents and school personnel need to step up and do what is right and

take back our schools from these violent offenders and restore peace and safety to our schools.
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Darling, Brian. “Armed Pilots Program Provides a Good Model for Arming Teachers.” Townhall,

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