I have four years of license to carry (LTC) and tactical firearm training from Defensive Solutions of Texas. After obtaining my handgun license, my advanced experience included personal self-defense, active shooter drills, hostage situations, carjacking defenses, use of cover, gun safety, legal issues and much more. Virtually all training involved live fire. I also spent four extra days at the shooting range during most weeks and expended hundreds of rounds to make my shooting and tactical skills as automatic as possible.
Aside from the highly controversial ethical issues associated with personnel who aren't in law enforcement carrying guns in school, I seriously question whether most teachers have the time to engage in the training required to effectively confront active shooters, because I have seen the hours teachers already spend outside the school in service to their students.
I also wonder if some people calling for the arming of teachers with guns even hold a handgun license.
The training required for a Texas handgun license consists of five hours of classroom instruction combined with a live-fire range qualification exercise with 50 timed rounds fired from a ready, static position (gun already drawn and facing the target). Rounds are discharged from three, seven and 15 yards with a passing score of 175 of 250 points.
In the classroom, lessons cover topics like gun safety, Texas concealed carry law, when deadly force can or cannot be used, legal implications of the use of deadly force, nonviolent dispute resolution and other relevant topics. In the LTC classroom, students are taught to escape from gunfire through situational awareness, making the use of deadly force a tool for self-preservation only when other options are unavailable. Students who pass classroom and range requirements and a background check conducted by the state of Texas are issued a license to carry a handgun from the state.
A handgun license without further training is not nearly enough for most classroom teachers, or anyone else, to effectively confront the kind of nightmare we saw in Parkland, Fla.
In contrast to LTC training, active shooter (tactical) training goes far beyond self-preservation because the objective is to stop the threat. In active shooter training, lessons consist of simulations designed to approximate reality as much as possible. Examples include lessons that might consist of confronting a shooter in a crowd, in low light or with panicked, out-of-control people running toward the so-called good guy as they try to save themselves.
Taking the perpetrator out could require a head shot, at 20 feet, so he can’t fire his weapon if he is already wounded. That kind of accuracy is hard to achieve with hours of practice in simulations using projected images, dummies or paper targets. Real situations with adrenaline pumping, vision narrowing and panicked people out of control increase the pressure on the good guy exponentially.
In real life, the good guy must consider the chance of hitting a student rather than the shooter, or the possibility of a gun grab by the shooter or someone else. There is also the possibility of a hostage situation because the shooter is determined to escape rather than killing himself or dying in a “suicide by cop” situation.
In 2017, Texas, through the Department of Public Safety, addressed the possibility of teachers carrying guns at school by providing 16 hours of training beyond what is required for a LTC through its Safe School Certification program. This training includes (1) protection of students, (2) interaction of license holders with first responders (3) denying intruders entry into classrooms or schools and (4) accuracy drills intended to enhance shooting ability while under stress.
Teachers who have taken this class do not have permission to carry a firearm on campus without school board approval.
Even though Texas law allows teachers to carry guns in school, I’m against the idea. As a very insightful friend of mine who has worked for the CIA and the FBI says: “Teachers teach; security professionals carry weapons.”
People who casually say that teachers can or should do both may not recognize the stress and complexity of teaching, and the time required to do a good job of it. It also seems unreasonable to ask teachers to carry guns in class rather than first looking at all the other measures that can make schools safer for students, teachers and everyone else.
Mac Bernd is a retired superintendent for the Arlington Independent School District.