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To Arms…Teachers?

In order to put this article in the correct perspective, I must first preface it with my own background and experience with firearms.  I deployed twice with 1st Battalion 7th Marine Regiment on two deployments to Iraq. As part of an infantry unit I had countless hours of weapons training, including thousands upon thousands of rounds fired, hours or dry firing, rehearsals and safety rule reiteration.  Along the way, I was able to pick up two secondary MOS’s (military occupational specialty) that furthered my proficiency with weapons handling, instruction, and use.  The first gave me a secondary MOS as a CMC (combat marksmanship coach) and the second was a continuation of the first; CMT (combat marksmanship trainer). I used these two secondary MOS’s throughout the duration of my time on active duty and in extensive use my last 6 months while I was FAP’ed (fleet assistance program) to MTU (marksmanship training unit). We would daily train, instruct, and inspect hundreds of Marines and Naval attachments in marksmanship training on rifle, pistol, and a variety of other weapons systems. Training consisted of a series of progressive steps that built upon excellence in the basic and foundational understanding of how the weapons systems worked, how to treat them, handle them, and lastly, employ them accurately. A range would first begin with classroom instruction (although more informal and less conventional than one might visualize) rehearsals/dry fire, remediation if necessary, and finally on to live fire. This consisted of several strings of fire, and then a final qualification run and, again, an additional live fire run for those few that were unable to qualify the first time through for weapons system malfunctions, or lack of marksmanship skills. I’m currently a squad leader with Fox 2/24, a reserve unit, while I’m attending school in the Chicago area.  With all this being said, I am a strong advocate to arm our teacher’s, but only if we do it the right way.

Any reasonable person knows that disarming a law obeying populace will only leave the criminals armed. That argument does not need to be repeated again here. Any person who is set on trading his life for another can accomplish it with or without guns. When lawmakers begin their quest for creating legislation with the intent of preventing future gun violence, they need to follow a few sets of principles. The legislation must be aimed at a specific goal and then be followed by these two guidelines: it must 1) protect and 2) provide.  The argument that by regulating the purchase of a good based on the risk of consumption or use of the good may have on the buyer is not the concern we should have in regards to firearms.  As William A. Levison previously pointed out in American Thinker, vehicles are much more dangerous than firearms, yet we don’t regulate who can purchase a vehicle because of their intended purpose or that it might be dangerous to them. Legislation can be better served if we treated weapons in much the same way we treated our cars.  You do not need a driver’s license to purchase a car, but you need one to drive it. Why not consider firearms in a similar way? Do not add regulations on the purchase of the firearms.  Instead, mandate safety rule training. If gun control laws are going to be implemented, they would be more effective to place  “tighter regulation” on  proper use and carry, versus the simple and fundamental right of being allowed to purchase and own firearms. I propose the following four simple steps as a guideline to how legislation can be pursued to protect our 2nd amendment rights to bear firearms and provide reasonable safety for children to attend school with less risk of a future shooting. These proposed guidelines are aimed at diminishing gun violence in schools more specifically than anything else.  I do believe they can be extracted for a more broad application. The guidelines are as follows:

1)      Mandate weapon safety training

2)      Rehearse school shooting drills

3)      Train all teachers to handle firearms

4)      Equip a minimum amount of teachers with firearms

1) Mandate weapon safety training to students and teachers in the same way you would driver’s education. The safety that must be used with firearms can be instituted at a much younger age than driver’s education is typically taught. Minimally, this should include weapons safety rules, weapons conditions, and familiarization with dismantling and reassembling the weapon. Even if the respective school district never intends to arm their teachers, the teachers and students should be familiar with firearms to the point they respect the weapon, and no longer fear it because the media demonizes it as “scary”.  2) Rehearse school shooting drills in the same way a fire drill or tornado drill is rehearsed.  Ready Houston produced an instructional video designed with the purpose of establishing a basic standard operating procedure of how to respond when an active shooter event occurs. Students and teachers should be familiar with the steps it takes to survive this type of scenario. 3) Train all teachers to handle firearms.  Before any teacher picks up a weapon, you want to ensure they know how to handle it properly and proficiently. Even if not all teachers were armed, it would pay dividends for them to be armed with the knowledge of how to use one.  This knowledge is what can diminish the fear of weapons, and enhance the security of any school; or at the very least, take substantial steps towards improving realistic security at schools. 4) Equip a minimum amount of teachers to carry weapons while in school. If it’s a budgeting issue or capability concern, then prioritize by the most competent teachers and work towards meeting the goal of arming all teachers.  This is not something that is unheard of, as it is in practice in Israel already.  Even if only 1 in every 10 teachers were armed, the deterrence argument has more than enough validity to cast a high level of doubt that a shooter would enter the school’s premises with ill intent knowing that several of the teachers would be armed and trained to protect their students.

I am fully aware that any regulation to mandate safety rule training could be potentially problematic (depending on who is doing the mandating, i.e. Federal, state, or local government), the emphasis stills needs to be placed on the training to handle a weapon safely, and fire it accurately. Many people own firearms that do not know how handle them. I would not, for one second, trust one of these people to protect my own child. Weapons safety and firing accurately are two very different areas of instruction, and although the first comes easily in thought, it is not really learned until you have been put through a variety of situations, and have placed many rounds down range on multiple different occasions.  In the same way, we should never advocate that one should be allowed to have a concealed carry after having only a day of “training” and shooting a handful of rounds at a gigantic target from only a few feet away. In the same manner, if we are going to open this dialogue and seriously consider how to go about arming responsibly trained teachers to competently and proficiently handle and carry  weapons in the class room, then training must be taken very seriously. Even among highly trained Marines, while coaching I have seen some very dumb accidents that could have cost the life of another. Early on in my career, a very dear friend of my own was killed in a training accident because another Marine didn’t follow safety guidelines. I would feel extremely uncomfortable if a teacher carried a firearm that could not employ it accurately.  Some of the civilian ranges I have been to emphasized the fact that many firearm owners have not learned a standardized way to safely employ their weapon. To reiterate, I do not think that violates their right to possess a firearm, but if we are to place a weapon in the hands of one of our teachers, we must train them to use it efficiently. Firearms are not toys.  They are to be respected for their ability to take life, not feared or demonized because they can do this. The more seriously we train our teachers to handle firearms, the more respect a shooter will have for them, and the less likely they will be to even begin considering taking the life of our unarmed children.

The blame for the gun control outcry is typically an emotional, knee-jerk reaction to cease violence by blaming guns. If we continually portray weapons as the villain, we will continually produce a culture that demonizes firearms, fears them rather than respects them, and seeks to band them rather than bear them. If we continually attempt to restrict weapons, then we will restrict law-abiding citizens, and give criminals the upper hand. If we control the rights of citizens to defend themselves and their children, we will lose control of our ability to prevent more violence. If arming our teachers is worth doing, then it is worth doing well. If the legislation that is going to be proposed does anything less than protect our 2nd amendment rights and provide for the safety of our children, then it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. The legislation proposals are coming, so be prepared to cut to the  heart and purpose to see how it lines up to protect your rights and provide realistic safety for your children. Whether it’s a federal, state, or local government mandate is yet to be seen. Or even better, if communities take the initiative to implement their own version of my four suggestions (based off their specific needs and resources available), there can be a win for 2nd amendment rights, a win for providing realistic security, and a win for not depending on big government to provide the answer.

Josh Holler is the President and co-founder of True Declination. He served as an Infantry Marine with 1st Battalion 7th Marine Regiment on two tours to Iraq and is on the board of directors for Uganda N.O.W. Outreach. He is currently pursuing a degree in International Relations from Wheaton College. You can follow him on twitter @JoshHoller.

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