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Training to resist school shootings:

My new article for National Review Online continues the discussion of strategies to prevent school shootings. The article continues and elaborates some of the issues raised by Eugene and me in posts last week. The new articles points out that since 1995, Utah has allowed anyone with a concealed handgun license to carry a handgun on school property, and the policy has resulted in no incidents of gun misuse by any permit holder; this suggests that fears that teachers will use guns to threaten students, or that students will steal guns from teachers are overblown. The article suggests that teachers should be allowed, and encouraged, to take training in use of defensive sprays, and in unarmed self-defense. The article also suggests that self-defense be incorporated into the physical education curriculum.

I will be discussing the article this afternoon, at 5:09 p.m. Central Time, on the Vickie McKenna show, broadcast from Madison, Wisconsin. The program is available through live feed on the web.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Training to resist school shootings:
  2. Make Schools Safe for Kids, not Criminals:
Abdul (mail):
This is great as a theory, but theory is a long way from practice.

There's a trend in most schools to prevent teachers from using any physical force. This trend stems from fear of liability and also because teacher's unions don't want their members to be reduced to highly-educated bouncers. If schools are too risk adverse in general to ask staff to break up fights between fourth graders, they're unlikely to encourage the use of defensive sprays, hand-to-hand self defense, let alone guns.
10.10.2006 1:02pm
Jeek:
If we can't even agree in this country to make it easy for airline pilots to be armed, I highly doubt we're going to facilitate arming our teachers.

What is the scope of this problem, anyway? School shootings are sensational, but the actual number of deaths as a percent of yearly homicides has to be minimal.
10.10.2006 1:18pm
David Walser:
I am in favor of allowing teachers to carry guns if that's their choice. However, I doubt the Utah experience can be generalized to other states. While the good people of the Beehive State might complain about the local youth gangs, I doubt Utah's problems with youth violence can be compared -- in terms of severity and frequency -- with the problems faced by more urban locales.
10.10.2006 1:19pm
Mike D. (mail):
I am in favor of allowing teachers to carry firearms provided that they are properly trained and prepared to use them.

We need to face the reality that schools are soft targets for terrorists and other sick individuals who want to inflict harm on our children and our communities. To prevent these tragedies we must pursue a comprehensive plan to secure our schools. Part of this plan should include training and arming educators who are willing to take a stand against these sick individuals.

The sad truth is the bad guys don't stop shooting until the good guys show up. Anything to shorten the time between the initial shots and neutralizing the threat will save innocent lives. Check out Dave Grossman's www.killology.com for more of what our community leaders should be doing to protect our schools.
10.10.2006 1:37pm
raj (mail):
Earth to David...

The new articles points out that since 1995, Utah has allowed anyone with a concealed handgun license to carry a handgun on school property, and the policy has resulted in no incidents of gun misuse by any permit holder; this suggests that fears that teachers will use guns to threaten students, or that students will steal guns from teachers are overblown.

Yee gadds, this is ridiculous. This regarding Utah might be an interesting data point if you actually had statistics from Utah as to the number or percentage of teachers who had concealed handgun licenses actually carried handguns on school property. You didn't suggest any such statistics, here or in your article. If the number or percentage is zero or in the noise, it is highly unlikely that you would see any incidents of gun misuse, etc., "by any permit holder."
10.10.2006 1:45pm
RMCACE (mail):
Ahhh, So that is why Utah didn't get to host the HBO series The Wire.

To quote Stephen Colbert in "the Word" segment last night: "a rational suicidal maniac isn't going to want to put his life in danger."
10.10.2006 2:06pm
SeaLawyer:

I am in favor of allowing teachers to carry firearms provided that they are properly trained and prepared to use them.


What exactly does properly trained mean?
10.10.2006 2:12pm
Colin (mail):
Check out Dave Grossman's www.killology.com for more of what our community leaders should be doing to protect our schools.

Yikes. I haven't followed Grossman's position on school security, but the "killology" work that I've seen is awful. His "video games train mass murderers" thesis is one (small) step above Jack Thompson's braying rhetoric, and seems to share the same publicity motive. His ideas on securing schools may well be all level-headed, rational, and empirical, but given his past irrationality he no longer gets the benefit of a doubt from me.
10.10.2006 2:24pm
curious (mail):
actually, there's something to the "video games train mass murderers" thing. obviously dramatically overstates the case.

but anecdotally there's definitely desensitization caused by video games, especially as they become more and more realistic (ask anyone who's played a lot of GTA if they haven't had weird moments on the street or in a car where a random GTA impulse floats through their head). if that happens to well balanced (ahem, i hope) people, it's not a huge leap to think what happens to people who's grip is a little shakier

there's a whole book on this type of pop culture desensitization (and explicitly intentional desensitization by the military in training contexts) -- On Killing, by Dave Grossman -- that's actually really really good.
10.10.2006 2:32pm
curious (mail):
you know, i had neither looked the killology link nor really regisetred the dave grossman name (had to look it up on amazon for my post) when i initially read the above post.

i guess not that surprising that his name came to my mind when i saw the "video games train mass murderers" reference. still, the book is acutally good. not a trained academic, or wasn't when he wrote it (i think), and it's rough and not all fancylike. but striking data and hisotry
10.10.2006 2:34pm
Captain Holly (mail):

Yee gadds, this is ridiculous. This regarding Utah might be an interesting data point if you actually had statistics from Utah as to the number or percentage of teachers who had concealed handgun licenses actually carried handguns on school property. You didn't suggest any such statistics, here or in your article. If the number or percentage is zero or in the noise, it is highly unlikely that you would see any incidents of gun misuse, etc., "by any permit holder."


Official numbers are hard to come by, but most sources I've seen show there are approximately 75,000 Utah CCW permittees, with some 60,000 held by Utah residents, or roughly 3% of the adult population. The state issues around 7,000 new permits per year, with an increasing number going to non-residents because Utah's permit is accepted in more states than any other permit issued by any other state.

I've mentioned in comments here before that I've personally heard of several anecdotal examples of teachers and principals carrying while on the job. I myself used to discreetly carry while working at the University of Utah. I doubt you'd be able to get a firm number of persons who carry in school, since most school districts take a "don't ask, don't tell" stance towards carrying by faculty and staff. They don't encourage it, but they can't forbid it, either.

As to the prevalence of firearms in Utah, I've seen estimates as high as 60% of all households. Since Utah does not require registration of firearms or owners, getting an exact number of guns and gun owners in the state would be impossible (for example, if some stranger called me out of the blue and asked how many guns I owned I'd either say "None" or "None of your damned business" and hang up). But trust me, Utahns are generally quite favorable to gun ownership, and I wouldn't doubt that the number of households with guns is actually higher.

So we have a state where we can be pretty sure that most households own at least one gun, where 3 out of 100 adults have a carry permit, and where it is legal for teachers and school staff with a permit to carry a firearm on school premises for self-defense.

Logic would dictate that some teachers are taking advantage of this situation, and since there have been no documented accidental shootings or school massacres, I think we can safely say the Sky Will Not Fall if teachers are allowed to carry guns in school.
10.10.2006 2:34pm
M.E.Butler (mail):
Of course, the other question we should answer is "How many school shootings were there in Utah before passage of the 1995 Concealed Carry statute. So, the risk that some teachers may be packing doesn't seem to have deterred anybody, if there was nobody out there who needed deterring.

It's like my dad's old comment when we asked him why he honked the horn on some stretch of deserted highway: "To keep the elephants off the road." It worked. There were no elephants on the road.
10.10.2006 2:40pm
arthur (mail):
Considering how existing mandatory training for public school teachers works for getting them to teach effectively, I'm skeptical that training on safe firearms practices will be much use.
10.10.2006 2:45pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Logic would dictate that some teachers are taking advantage of this situation, and since there have been no documented accidental shootings or school massacres, I think we can safely say the Sky Will Not Fall if teachers are allowed to carry guns in school.

And since no one in a Utah school has been eaten by a tiger since 1995 either, arming teachers has also been beneficial and that regard too. It has also prevented all cases of bubonic plague. Unfortunately, it has contributed to global warming and been responsible for the failure of the Utah Jazz to appear in the NBA finals and BYU to win a National Championship in Football in the last ten years. But you have to take the good with the bad.
10.10.2006 2:46pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Seriously though Dave, is there any issue, problem or societal ill for which your answer is not "arm more people and make access to guns easier"?
10.10.2006 2:48pm
Captain Holly (mail):

And since no one in a Utah school has been eaten by a tiger since 1995 either, arming teachers has also been beneficial and that regard too. It has also prevented all cases of bubonic plague. Unfortunately, it has contributed to global warming and been responsible for the failure of the Utah Jazz to appear in the NBA finals and BYU to win a National Championship in Football in the last ten years. But you have to take the good with the bad.


One can always rely on Mr. Thomas to provide some humorous non-sequiturs.

My point still stands: Utah has already allowed teachers and staff to carry on school grounds for the past decade without any resultant carnage or mayhem, either by students or teachers.

Now of course, correlation does not equal causation. But if you're going to claim that allowing teachers to carry on school grounds would make the situation more dangerous, you'd at the very least expect to see one incident where a student was shot by a teacher.
10.10.2006 2:58pm
Captain Holly (mail):

Of course, the other question we should answer is "How many school shootings were there in Utah before passage of the 1995 Concealed Carry statute. So, the risk that some teachers may be packing doesn't seem to have deterred anybody, if there was nobody out there who needed deterring.


That indeed may be true. I fully admit that Utah's lack of school shootings may be due more to being full of well-behaved Mormon kids than to a phalanx of armed teachers.

But that's not the point that opponents of arming teachers are making. They're saying in effect that allowing teachers to carry firearms will make the schools significantly more dangerous. Utah's experience over the past decade suggests that is completely false.
10.10.2006 3:05pm
Random3 (mail):
What Kopel said was "After eleven years of experience in Utah, we now have exactly zero reported problems of concealed handgun licensees misusing guns at school, or students stealing guns from teachers, or teachers using their licensed firearms to shoot or threaten students. During this same period, we also have had exactly zero mass murders in Utah schools."

His main point about the Utah case here is to show that allowing teachers to carry guns won't result in gun accidents in schools (one of the early arguments made here against allowing guns in schools). The zero mass murder point was a secondary point. Silly analogies to preventing tiger attacks, global warming, etc., are not fair to him, since A) you are attacking a strawman rather than his argument, and B) unlike tiger attacks, the U.S., and in particular at least one state right next door to Utah (Colorado) has experienced a lot of school shootings over the period of Utah experience. I agree that the Utah case does not make it case closed for guns in schools, but at least Kopel brings some data to the table. If you want to refute his argument, you should do the same.
10.10.2006 3:12pm
Colin (mail):
curious, re: Grossman's work (with apologies for creative ellipses)

dramatically overstates the case. . . anecdotally . . . not a trained academic, or wasn't when he wrote it . . . rough and not all fancylike

Yes, my point exactly. (I assume "all fancylike" means "based on solid data and logic.") Grossman's work sounds good if you don't think about it too hard, or ask for solid data, but it's all guesses, rhetoric, and anecdotes. Which would be fine if he were just pontificating, but he also wants policy to be made on the back of his anecdotes. Personally, I react to his suggestions that we restrict minors' access to speech he doesn't like with the same visceral shudder I imagine Kopel feels when someone argues that restrict minors' access to firearm safety training.

Grossman's glib, but he's predominantly a publicity hound. See my earlier comparison to Jack Thompson, who's worse but not by much.

None of this is to say that Grossman's work on "killology" in regards to military training is invalid. I believe, although I don't know, that he has some experience and hard data in that field. But he has a lamentable belief that he's an expert on "killology" in all regards.
10.10.2006 3:49pm
Houston Lawyer:
We should consider paying teachers to carry concealed weapons. For an extra $1,000 per year or so per teacher, you could get a lot of teachers armed and ready. I believe that this would be far more cost effective than hiring armed guards who don't teach.

We could also teach firearms safety to students starting at a fairly early age. A student who knows how guns work is far more likely to be able to stop an attack.
10.10.2006 4:04pm
curious (mail):
I haven't read anything else Grossman's done, and had no idea of the little cottage industry he's built up around his initial insight. His website looks kind of redunkulous.

BUT . . . _On Killing_ is a solid frickin book. Not all policy need be made on the back of tenure track statistical analysis. Not least because the perfect data set is so rarely there.
10.10.2006 4:25pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
To quote Stephen Colbert in "the Word" segment last night: "a rational suicidal maniac isn't going to want to put his life in danger."
Which is why snark is not actually a substitute for thinking.

Yes, you can't deter a suicidal person. But if these people were merely suicidal, they'd just kill themselves. They're not merely suicidal; they want to kill lots of other people. A "rational suicidal maniac" isn't going to want to put his life in danger WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH HIS OBJECTIVE FIRST.
10.10.2006 4:25pm
curious (mail):
and, it's worth noting, i have waaaay less concern about first amendment concerns regarding minors' access to objectionable entertainment than i do re adults' access to the same thing.

not none. but *way* less.
10.10.2006 4:26pm
Jeek:
We should consider paying teachers to carry concealed weapons. For an extra $1,000 per year or so per teacher, you could get a lot of teachers armed and ready.

Bah, we already pay them a lot to teach and they don't do that, what makes you think paying them a little to provide security would induce them to do that?

Every single teacher will take the $1000 and leave the weapon at home.
10.10.2006 4:34pm
JosephSlater (mail):
More comedy in the struggle of some conservatives on these threads to reconcile the "more guns are the answer" claim with the irrational hatred of teachers and their unions.
10.10.2006 4:57pm
arthur (mail):
Possible compromise: to accomodate school teachers and parents of all persuasions, public school teachers may choose to receive training on any two of the following three: (1) phonics (2) evolution (3) firearms.
10.10.2006 5:20pm
Colin (mail):
Not all policy need be made on the back of tenure track statistical analysis.

i have waaaay less concern about first amendment concerns regarding minors' access to objectionable entertainment than i do re adults' access to the same thing.


Both fair points.
10.10.2006 5:24pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
As I argued in my previous post there is every difference in the world between people who happen to have handguns on school property and people who are implicitly authorized by law to use those handguns to stop school shootings.

It is much like the case with using torture to stop terrorists. I agree with the earlier sentiment someone posted on this blog that sometimes the president might be justified in making the deciscion to torture a captured terrorist in ticking bomb type scenarios but to legaly authorize presidential torture on these grounds would be a bad idea as the authorization would encourage the president to use this remedy in more than just the most desperate circumstances.

The few number of teachers who happen to be armed for their personal safety will likely be very reluctant to draw their gun. If you start giving them training to stop school shooters they will be more inclined to use that training.

Additionally this still doesn't do anything to defend against the fact that this is a solution looking for a problem. The number of school rampages is so small that even if this just made many students a little irrationally uncomfortable it would likely not be justified.

Moreover showing that you had 0 incidents is really not very helpful. In order to cause more deaths than the policy would prevent you would only need to cause a couple of deaths and yet, unless you have reason to believe a high percentage of teachers are packing, this shows nothing of the kind.
10.10.2006 5:32pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
To be clear I think it is absurd to think there will be a large negative impact if teachers are encouraged to carry guns to stop school shooting. Likely it will only very rarely lead to problems. The debateable question is whether it will lead to more problems than it solves.

Teachers tend to be very liberal as a rule so it's probable they are carrying at a far lower rate than the rest of state residents. Moreover, it is interesting the way earlier commenters described schools as having a don't ask don't tell policy which is likely putting social pressure on teachers not to pull out a gun.

In the current situation a teacher 'knows' (subconciously at least) that it's perfectly acceptable for them to respond to a tense situation without drawing a gun and likely get the sense the right response is not drawing a gun. Of course in critical situations where someone is actually shooting they would react differently but this is exactly how we would want it. In the regime this new policies propose the incentives would likely be reversed. Teachers in a situation which looks like it is going to be a school shooting (see a gun in the pocket of an angry student) will worry they aren't doing their job if they don't draw their weapon.
10.10.2006 5:43pm
steveh2:
David, I'm curious about your statement that there were "no incidents of gun misuse by any permit holder." Did you mean no school-related incidents, or no incidents at all? Because I remember when that study came out a couple of years back regarding Utah's concealed carry law, and as I recall it, the conclusion was not that there had been no incidents by permit holders, but that the rate of such incidents was lower than that of the general public.

But that was a few years ago, so I wonder if you can post a cite to your source.

Re questions about Utah schools, Utah is clearly much safer than a major inner city area, but we do get drive-by shootings and other such incidents here.
10.10.2006 6:46pm
whit:
anti (school) gun people continually make specious and speculative claims about accidental shootings, kids knowing where teachers guns are and grabbing them, etc. But as usual, the facts tell something different - see: Utah.

Furthermore, for many decades, many kids took their own guns (rifles) to schools, as many schools had riflery for their students. Guns are clearly not the problem.

The issue is not "arming" teachers imo. That is not what ALLOWING teachers to carry firearms would do. It would be UN disarming them. We ARM police and military. We provide them with guns. Allowing them (and parents, and administrators, and any other legally qualified adult) to carry on campus, as they do off-campus, is not "arming" them. It is just removing the laws that DISarm them.

As to the suicidal maniac thing. I've dealt with several firsthand. SOME will not be deterred by people with guns. These are the types that so often commit suicide by cop. Many - will. Regardless, the issue of specific deterrence is still present. It may not deter many maniacs from starting to shoot at kids at a school. It will deter them from CONTINUING to shoot, when some teacher, parent, etc. fills them with lead.

It really should not be a radical concept to simply make schools the same as the rest of society - places where people can carry guns. Specifically disarming law abiding people, in a non-controlled environment (vs. say a courthouse where there is 100% screening of everybody who enters) just gives the bad guys a big edge. And that is absurd.
10.10.2006 7:09pm
Raj (mail) (www):
Excellent point Whit - the distinction between "arming" and "un" disarming teachers. Unless its a completely controlled environment, explicitly disallowing responsible citizens to "carry" is a guaranteed, zero-deterrence scenario. i.e sitting ducks.

(On a side note, the Amish have forgiven their children's killer and are "fundraising" for _his_ children.)
10.10.2006 7:44pm
Angus:
Interesting to note that Grossman's "Doom and Gloom" book about America's mass murdering future was published in 1995.

In the 11 years since, video games have gotten far more violent and realistic, but the murder rate has plummeted.

Oops for his theory.
10.10.2006 9:02pm
Bizarro Democrat:
I am personally opposed to private gun ownership.

But I wouldn't restrict a woman's right to choose whether or not to own and/or carry a firearm for self-protection.
10.10.2006 11:40pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
The reality is that school shootings are going to increase because schools generally provide a dense vulnerable target, whose attack is going to generate much media attention. Whether a loony, a wacko kid or a terrorist, they all are going to prefer schools over police stations, shopping malls or even churches.

I think Utah has the right approach. Allowing CCW by teachers is like allowing the possibility of arming pilots. It adds a complicating factor that makes it more difficult to attack a school, even if nobody at THAT school is carrying. And yes, it means that a wacko who enters a school intent on mayhem is more likely to take a shot at the first vice principal he finds in the hall. GOOD! If the wacko shoots at somebody out in the halls, classes can take immediate steps, Lock doors, desk in front of doors, call 911, out windows, etc. The real danger to large groups of kids is when a wacko gets into an occupied classroom, trapping 30 kids, blocking the only exit. The wacko, now controls 30 lives. Forcing a shot out in the hall may be bad for a vice principal but a win for the good guys overall.
10.11.2006 12:17am
Antonio Manetti (mail):
I suggest a high-visibility program to provide all teachers with weapons and shoot-to-kill training, like that required by any law enforcement agency. Since the safety of our children is at stake, participation in such a program should be a mandatory requirement for accreditation.

The faculty members on this site who agree with this policy would be doing the public a service by actively promoting such a program -- not just in theory but in the reality of their own classrooms as well (if they aren't already doing so). Imagine the excitement and envy of your colleagues as you clean and oil that brand new Glock in the faculty lounge after a visit the campus shooting range to sharpen your skills.
10.11.2006 5:18pm
whit:
You need to brush up on your facts...
"to provide all teachers with weapons and shoot-to-kill training, like that required by any law enforcement agency"

um, no

law enforcement agencies do not teach "shoot-to-kill"

they teach "shoot to stop" and that is not a subtle difference.

disclaimer: I am a firearms instructor and have taught several hundred police officers how to shoot, consistent with their (and my) dept's policy. I have looked over the policies of several dozen other LE Agencies.

The training is 'shoot to stop'
10.11.2006 10:24pm
Kevin P. (mail):
Antonio Manetti:

Imagine the excitement and envy of your colleagues as you clean and oil that brand new Glock in the faculty lounge after a visit the campus shooting range to sharpen your skills.

Snark is so emotionally satisfying, no?

Unfortunately, most of us notice that you didn't have any coherent or concrete argument or facts to offer.

But whatever floats your boat ...
10.12.2006 4:39am
Colin (mail):
whit,

What is the difference between "shoot to stop" and "shoot to kill"?
10.12.2006 11:06am
whit:
In shoot to stop, one is trained to shoot center of mass (of presented target). If that ceases to work (maybe cause the guy is wearing body armor), then secondary targets are used - head, and legs.

The purpose of shoot to stop is to distribute lead in areas that 1) you are most likely to hit 2) that will cause disruption in the body's systems such that it will render the suspect incapable of returning fire or continuing to be a threat.

Snipers in the military, as a counterexample, are taught to shoot to kill - specifically - one shot, one kill. They have a bit of biology training even, since you have to learn where to shoot to be most likely to kill somebody.

Military ammo, by geneva conventions iirc, is also specifically full metal jacket ball ammo - designed to remain intact (not to mushroom), whereas civilian LE ammo is usually of the hollow point, or hydro-shock variety (no geneva convention restrictions apply).

Officers (with extremely rare exceptions - like a police sniper in a situation where a guy is holding a gun to his head), are also not taught to 'wing somebody' or shoot at secondary or tertiary targets to "wound". This is despite the fact that lay media constantly make references to statements by individuals and even editorialists with such a stance "why couldn't the officer have shot him in the leg".

Handguns are (relatively) inaccurate (user error of course, but much harder to hit a target with), and a compromise in any firefight (not particularly powerful and a dim second to a rifle or shotgun). However, patrol rifles are not practical to carry into every situation. Our training is predicated on that understanding.

No civilian or police firearms training class I am aware of teaches "shoot to kill." the idea is both impractical, and legally unsupportable. Police (or civilians) are not declaring the death penalty. They are using firearms for self-defense. If the deadly force HAPPENS to result in death, that is perfectly groovy. But, it cannot be the intent. The intent is to stop the threat. If the concept was "shoot to kill", it would be justified to walk up and shoot somebody in the head, who you had shot and subsequently disarmed, and was lying on the ground defenseless. That would be murder.
10.12.2006 11:28am
markm (mail):
"Shoot to stop" and "shoot to kill" both reduce to "aim for the center of the body mass" in most cases. There is a difference, but most of the time it's not going to affect the target's chances of survival.

Of course, in "shoot to stop", you don't stand over an unconscious body and put another round in the head ... except maybe if you're a British cop chasing a Brazilian through the subway station.
10.12.2006 1:09pm
whit:
markm...

in terms of EFFECT, that is (often) true, as stated.

but we are talking the law. ya know... intent and stuff...

shoot to stop, is defined by (to some extent) different tactics (moreso with a longgun than a handgun) and to a greater extent - by intent and EXTENT of the shooting.
10.12.2006 1:52pm
whit:
oh, also. if u believe the suspect has the trigger to a bomb, the british situation would most definitely be legal under shoot to stop...

all Guardian UK editorializing aside.
10.12.2006 1:57pm