This time is the reemergence of the idea that the way to prevent shootings in schools (Note: nobody seems to care about shootings in churches, movie theatres, or other “mass” shootings.) is to have “weapon adept,” armed teachers in the schools. “It’s called concealed carry,” we are told, although if teacher’s guns were in their lockers during the school day (as is sometimes suggested) it seems highly unlikely that they could be obtained quickly enough to be terribly effective in an emergency.
The PBS News Hour phrased in this way:
On Thursday, Trump did offer one concrete proposal. He said he thinks arming hundreds of thousands of teachers across the country who have experience handling guns could help thwart school shootings.
“I think a concealed permit for teachers and letting people know there are people in the building with a gun, you won’t have, in my opinion you won’t have these shootings,” Trump said. “Because these people are cowards. They’re not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns. It may be 10 percent, it may be 40 percent.”
Trump also said, he would want to reward teachers who carry guns. “Now what I’d recommend doing is the people that do carry, we give them a bonus, we give them a little bit of a bonus, because frankly they’d feel more comfortable having the gun anyway,” he said.
Then, there is making sure that these teachers are trained. Even in the case of ex-military, shouldn’t they be provided the same training as police officers? And should they not be required to be “retrained” as often as police officers? That’s going to cost something in addition to the 70 million a year mentioned above, but without which the whole idea would seem to break down.
Of course, some would suggest that we be aware of the fact that even trained, sworn police officers (armed with handguns) are not always immediately “effective” against suspects in a “shots fired” situation. That is to say that it often takes more than one shot to “take down” a shooter. In 2008, the New York Times reported that in New York “Officers hit their targets roughly 34 percent of the time.” And, “So far this year the hit ratio in Los Angeles is 31 percent, with 74 of 237 bullets fired by officers hitting the target.” In 2015, the New York Daily News reported “Oft-apprehended Jerrol Harris, 27, was busted around 1:10 a.m. when a single bullet — out of 84 fired at him — pierced his calf to end a blocks-long police pursuit through Bushwick, cops said.” I find this distressing, although it may be understandable, given the pressure of “shoot/don’t shoot” decisions being made in a split second in the “heat of the moment.” Yes, President Trump did attend military school from age 13 through high school, but I find it hard to believe that he had much “live fire” combat training, so I have little confidence that he is well qualified to speak as to how easy it is to “take out” a shooter in a combat situation.
Others, perhaps more familiar with this situation, tell a different story, as in this from Business Insider:
"Shooting under stress is extremely difficult. Even for the most well-trained shooters," Jay Kirell,, an Afghanistan veteran who has written about difficulties veterans face in civilian life, tweeted. "A teacher is not going to be able to do this. Cops & soldiers literally get paid to do this & most of them can't shoot accurately under stress."
"Not because they suck, but because it's nearly impossible to hit a target in one shot when pumped full of adrenaline," Kirell added, "And if you're in a school with a shooter and dozens of children, if you're not shooting accurately you're just creating crossfire."
Data compiled by the New York City Police Department underscores the difficulty of firing accurately in challenging situations.
In 2005, NYPD officers intentionally fired their guns at someone 472 times, hitting their mark 82 times. In 2006, New York police fired under the same circumstances 364 times, hitting their target 103 times. That same year, Los Angeles police fired 67 times, recording 27 hits.
That leads me to wonder how often those “stray” bullets hit someone, or something, besides the target. It makes me worry about kids in a crowded school hallway, and it reminds me of non-demonstrators shot at Kent State in 1970.
Of course, some people would suggest that a military-style “assault” rifles and ammunition, designed for the military for the express purpose of killing the “enemy” have no business being available on the open market. Regarding the wounds made by such high-powered weapons, Heather Sher, a radiologist who treated Parkland victims commented in The Atlantic:
As I opened the CT scan last week to read the next case, I was baffled. The history simply read “gunshot wound.” I have been a radiologist in one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation for 13 years and have diagnosed thousands of handgun injuries to the brain, lung, liver, spleen, bowel, and other vital organs. I thought that I knew all that I needed to know about gunshot wounds, but the specific pattern of injury on my computer screen was one that I had seen only once before.
In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.
I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?
The reaction in the emergency room was the same. One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle which delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. There was nothing left to repair, and utterly, devastatingly, nothing that could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.
A year ago, when a gunman opened fire at the Fort Lauderdale airport with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun, hitting 11 people in 90 seconds, I was also on call. It was not until I had diagnosed the third of the six victims who were transported to the trauma center that I realized something out-of-the-ordinary must have happened. The gunshot wounds were the same low velocity handgun injuries as those I diagnose every day; only their rapid succession set them apart. And all six of the victims who arrived at the hospital that day survived.
- What about the fact that the walls and doors of most buildings are not built to “bulletproof” standards? Hence the possibility of injury to people who are unseen in classrooms, let alone in hallways?
- Do we really think that metal detectors, etc. are going to be enough to prevent weapons from being brought on campuses, let alone the idea that students are not going to be frightened by such methods? After all, we haven’t seen the TSA (a force of specially trained people) be able to accomplish this at airports.
- What about the fact that it is far from certain that the only people in a school hallway during a shooting “incident” would be the shooter and the armed teacher? What guarantees no “collateral damage” when the teacher starts shooting?
- How do we prevent one of our “weapon agile” teachers from shooting another one (a colleague) especially in large schools, given the fact that the “fire/don’t fire” decision would have to be made in a split second?
- How does the police SWAT team sort out who is the armed “bad” guy from all of the armed faculty and staff?
- Who provides the liability insurance for the “select, armed teachers” in case there is “collateral damage” within the student body, faculty, or staff?
This strikes me as suggesting that this “simple, easy” solution is likely to cost a great deal of money and create a great many problems which may not come immediately to mind, regardless of what Trump and the NRA may think.
It seems to me that, as a nation, we are awash with weapons, a good number of which are designed and intended for the specific purpose of killing people, not for hunting, or personal protection, except on a battlefield, where one can assume (perhaps incorrectly) that “collateral damage” can be expected and doesn’t seem to be a cause of much concern, unlike schools and other public places in the “homeland.” The American Journal of Medicine reports that the firearm death rate in the U.S. is 10.2/ 100,000. In the next closest nation, that rate is 3.6, or almost three times as high.
We like to think of ourselves as living in a country which leads the world. Isn’t it time we took some action to avoid being the leader in this way? Yet, we continue to suggest that it’s “too hard” to do anything beyond offering “prayers and condolences” to the victims and their families. Isn’t it time we did something more to demonstrate our leadership? Why is it harder to drive a car legally (learner’s permit, driver’s ed., driving test, insurance, vehicle registration and licensing, etc.) than to buy a military-style assault weapon? (Yes, one is a “right” and one is a “privilege,” but nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year, on average 3,287 deaths a day and an additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled despite these precautions.)
” Even with “enhanced” background checks, one can go to a gun “show” and purchase anything one wants in the way of weaponry with NO checks and no questions except how we are going to pay? A Google search for “AR-15 for sale” produces 2,920,000 hits in .31 seconds. Is this really the way we want to live?
It’s time to quit fooling ourselves. To quote Emma Gonzalez, a student survivor from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, “We call BS.” To slightly misquote Andrew Shepherd from The American President: “We've got serious problems, and we need serious people…. and fifteen minutes are up.”