A Thought Experiment Related to School Shootings

Imagine that you ran a school district, and some rich foundation, worried about school shootings, gave you the following offer: We’ll hire armed security guards for you, who could try to do something about the school shooter. These aren’t going to be highly trained police officers, just typical security guards, given some modest training and subjected to basic background checks. It’s not like they’re highly skilled; security guards rarely are. But they have a basic understanding of how to shoot, and when to shoot.

They wouldn’t deal with ordinary trespassing, vandalism, and the like, nor would they be at all guaranteed to be effective in the event of a school shooting (who can offer such a guarantee?). But they’d provide someone on the ground who could try to interrupt a killing spree. And the foundation is paying, so it’s virtually no cost to the district. Would you say yes?

I imagine that you probably would. You probably wouldn’t much worry, for instance, that the guard would go crazy and himself start shooting — theoretically possible, to be sure, but unlikely. You’d figure that someone who can defend the school with a gun during an attack (as opposed to the police, who will come in many precious minutes after the attack begins) is better than no-one.

Nor would you object in principle about there being a gun in school, since it’s in the right hands. Just like people who have money often pay for armed neighborhood-wide security patrols, and don’t insist on the unarmed kind or no patrol at all, you’d probably think that this free security guard would probably be helpful.

But wait! The foundation has just learned that its investment portfolio has done very badly, and the grant doesn’t go through. But someone else suggests: Instead of hiring special-purpose security guards, why not take some of your existing employees — teachers, administrators, and the like — and offer them a deal: They’d go through some modest training and subjected to basic background checks, and in exchange they’d be given the right to carry the same guns that the security guards would have had.

Indeed, this way you could have not just one security guard but several (if several staff members sign up). And you might get people to do this even without paying them, since they might value the ability to defend themselves and to not be sitting ducks should the worst happen. (If there’s some union contract or labor law that precludes that, that can of course be changed, if people think this is a good idea.) Maybe Assistant Principal Joel Myrick, who confronted the Pearl, Mississippi high school shooter with a gun, after Myrick went to the car to get it, might have participated in such a program if it had existed, and had let him keep the gun in school.

And no need to call the licenses given to those who participate in the program “concealed carry” licenses, just in case some parents and others don’t like the concept. Just call them “volunteer security guard” licenses, though you might expect that most people who sign up for this will also have licenses to concealed carry on the street. Of course, if a killer does show up, maybe some of these volunteer security guards will just cower in the corner rather than trying to defend the students, or attack the killer. But it seems more likely that someone will confront and try to stop the killer if that someone is armed then if that person is disarmed.

What’s your answer to that? Is there some reason why the armed security guard is safe and helpful, but the armed teacher, administrator, or staffer — er, the teacher with a volunteer security guard license — would be useless and a menace?