Permitting a small percentage of school teachers with concealed carry weapon [CCW] permits to continue to carry concealed handguns and/or concealed non-lethal defensive sprays such as Mace, OC, CS, etc. at school might be worth at least trying out as a means of reducing school shooting tragedies, especially since other popular proposals may not be effective and/or garner enough support for adoption, suggests public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who offers some suggestions for effectuating such policies.
For example, he says, it should not be necessary for a large percentage of the teachers to participate, and especially not to require any who are not willing to assume the responsibility to do so, if the identity of the small percentage of teachers who regularly carry concealed weapons is kept secret.
If teachers carry weapons openly, or if students are allowed to know which teachers carry concealed weapons, any current or former student planning a shooting rampage might be able to target, work around, or neutralize (e.g., use a chain to lock them in a classrooms) those teachers known to be armed.
But if students are simply warned – with appropriate signs or otherwise – that some teachers carry concealed weapons, but are not sure which ones or how many there are, a potential shooter would face a significant risk of having his plans thwarted, and not be able to take any effective countermeasures.
Many proponents of arming teachers have suggested that the major impact of such plans would come from armed teachers actually stopping an attack which is already underway by shooting the offender. But, suggests Banzhaf, allowing a small unidentified minority of willing teachers to carry concealed weapons might provide sufficient deterrence that many shootings would be prevented, rather than simply ended more quickly once they begin.
Indeed, Banzhaf suggests that while many potential school shooters may be prepared die “heroically” at the hands of police, potential shooters may see little glory or honor in being shot down by old Mrs. Grundy who teaches 9th grade History, or by one of the other teachers.
To minimize risks to all concerned, teachers armed with concealed handgun probably should be required to use bullets – such as the Glaser round – which cannot ricochet, and which are very unlikely to penetrate walls. This will go a long way towards eliminating possible harm to innocent bystanders.
To provide even further safety, teachers probably should be required not only to pass whatever tests are required generally to obtain a CCW permit, but also whatever specialized training, review, and practice the school feels is necessary and appropriate to have a gun on school grounds, and to be prepared to use it responsible if there is an active shooter.
If there are a large number of teachers unable or unwilling to take on this added responsibility by carrying a concealed handgun – in a manner very similar to commercial airplane pilots whose primarily responsibility is flying an airplane, not protecting against terrorists – a school may wish to permit if not encourage some teachers to carry concealed defensive spray (Mace-like) products.
This alternative may well appeal to some who are opposed to the use of lethal force, would never want the awesome responsibility of taking a life (even of a shooter), are afraid that a gun could be taken from them and used to kill them or other innocents, or have similar concerns.
Defensive irritant sprays are generally regarded as non-lethal, and any person – including the teacher discharging the spray, or a nearby student who might be affected – will be at most briefly sickened, but will almost certainly survive without any lasting injuries.
While most would agree that even a small, light, and easily concealed handgun is many times more likely to stop a student shooter, a highly irritating chemical able to stop a grizzly and capable of being sprayed 20 or more feet is far more effective than attacking an armed shooter with chairs, backpacks, or even computer cables as some have suggested.
Another major advantage of defensive sprays over handguns is that they are much smaller, lighter, and easier to carry on a daily basis to one’s teaching position, thereby encouraging teachers to get into the habit of doing so. Even small handguns are heavier and are often harder to conceal, especially when wearing certain dresses or other form fitting clothing.
Banzhaf suggests that this proposal could provide a compromise that many sides in the current controversy might be willing to try. It is obviously less extreme than arming all or even most of the teachers, or having a significant number walking around with visible guns.
The latter would likely be distracting to most students, be seen as inappropriate and as sending the wrong message by many, and objectionable on many other grounds. But permitting those teachers who already have permits, and who therefore are likely to carry weapons at many other times, to do so also at school seems less offensive, and is almost certainly more effective than doing nothing and/or adopting some of the other proposed methods of deterring school shootings.
Stationing a armed guard at entrances to schools would be very expensive. Moreover, a determined student killer could then simply shoot the guard first, and then continue his murderous rampage secure in the knowledge that he will enjoy a gun-free target-rich environment.
While some other prophylactic proposals – e.g., further restrictions on gun sales, and/or improvements in the background-checking process – may yield a small amount of additional reduction in school shootings, the effect may be limited because at least some school shooters are able to acquire their weapons legally, and might well be able to do so even if some current proposals are adopted.
Moreover, the Supreme Court has ruled that the right to own and carry a firearm is entitled to some measure of constitutional protection so that – for example – trying to prevent 18-20 year old adults from purchasing firearms might face constitutional objections, and well as raise public policy concerns for some.
Likewise, says Banzhaf, simply trying to identify all teens who have a mental illness or defect which might become serious enough to lead them to shoot others might itself not be feasible, much less providing sufficient treatment, supervision, etc. to insure that it will not occur. After all, he notes, authorities cannot reliably identify teens who are members of criminal gangs which kill people, much less single out lonely teens who just might do so in the future.
Certainly, argues Banzhaf, no single prophylactic plan or proposal will be itself end the apparently-growing problem of school shootings, but it certainly makes sense to at least consider those which are in the nature of a compromise between major factions, and therefore have a chance of being adopted.