The flow continues. One idiotic idea after another. Flowing freely from the Oval Office, billowing forth from the West Wing. The next evermore moronic than its predecessor. And now — armed teachers. Yes, we’re back to the old NRA recipe for carnage: Expand the number of guns in public spaces. Churches, concerts, schools, streets…
Bring In The Cavalry?
The occupant of the Oval Office appears to believe that the teaching ranks are filled with military veterans, and further that these veterans want to have guns in their classrooms. First off, there aren’t that many. In a 2013 USA Today article we find that Teach for America, which prioritized recruiting teachers from the ranks of military veterans had a “cadre of 100” veterans. The number may now be approximately 320. [Vox] Thus far it’s been difficult to find statistics tracking the number of military veterans who are currently teaching in our public and private schools. The US has about 14,000 school districts. [Census]
Secondly, the argument assumes that veterans advocate having firearms in their classrooms. This premise is also questionable. Three veterans spoke to this issue in this Esquire article. None seemed to see the proposal in a positive light, and their insights into situations, training, and human reactions are enlightening. Veterans interviewed by Buzzfeed described the idea as a tactical disaster. The “tactical disaster” argument is further buttressed by the combat veteran who spoke with Charlotte 5. There seems to be a vast gap between the advocates of the armaments escalation and the veterans with actual combat experience. I’m betting the combat veterans can provide more practical guidance on this issue.
Comic Book Characters
The notion that some Hero-Teacher armed with a Glock will leap from the shadows of a chaotic hall way and mow down an intruder firing an AR-15 is straight out of some comic book/Hollywood rendition of fantasy fiction. As the veterans cited above remark, there is no way to predict with 100% certainty how anyone will react under fire, and this is with 52 week per year training. At this point our Comic Book Hero has to embody the Hollywood concept that the hero always hits the target, and the villain always misses.
Even the US military doesn’t require that standard. We should remember that in Phase One of military weapons training the trainee doesn’t even fire the weapon, it’s all understanding the mechanical and operational characteristics of the gun. It isn’t until Phase Two that the trainee pulls the trigger. Qualification is another matter: “In order to qualify, you must hit at least 23 out of 40 pop-up targets at ranges varying from 5 meters to 300 meters (approximately 80 to 327 yards).” That calculates to a 57.5% accuracy rate.
Speed and accuracy are not a good mix. The speed of firing reduces the accuracy. The classic study done by the RAND Corporation in 2008 for the New York City Police Department should be consulted for additional information and for the conclusions it drew which remain valid.
“The NYPD reports hit-rate statistics both for officers involved in a gunfight and for officers who shoot at subjects who do not return fire. Between 1998 and 2006, the average hit rate was 18 percent for gunfights. Between 1998 and 2006, the average hit rate in situations in which fire was not returned was 30 percent.
Accuracy improves at close range, with officers hitting their targets 37 percent of the time at distances of seven yards or less; at longer ranges, hit rates fall off sharply, to 23 percent. [AJC]
Only by assuming the Comic Book Hero with a Hollywood Level of Fictional Accuracy, can a person argue that arming civilians is a viable option for protecting children.
What Should Be The Last Word
My goal here is to bring the reality of the situation to the forefront. Politicians who are blasé about the complexity and rigorous training required for these types of engagements and who underestimate the physical, physiological and psychological toll a combat environment brings to those involved, should be forced to place themselves in these types of simulations.
Ultimately, I’m saddened by the fact that we’ve reached a point where people in this country want teachers to arm themselves as moonlight deputies. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m confident that arming teachers isn’t the answer—now or ever.