A case against arming teachers: 3 data-backed reasons.
The whole argument for arming teachers can be summed up like this: “Having something is better than having nothing.” But is it really?
A Case Against Arming Teachers: 3 Data-Backed Reasons
The whole argument for arming teachers can be summed up like this: “Having something is better than having nothing.”
But is it really?
This article will examine three reasons why so many people think arming teachers is a good idea, and three reasons why it’s not a good idea.
You’ll notice something unique in the reasons.
The three reasons argument to arm teachers lacks the data to support it.
The three reasons argument against arming teachers has the data to support it.
I’ll let you decide which side to choose.
3 reasons for arming teachers
So, what are the reasons for arming teachers? Let’s look at three of them.
Reason #1: More armed people deter threats
Is there any proof that arming teachers works?
There haven’t been any studies to prove it works — only opinions and rhetoric. Let’s look at what the National Rifle Association (NRA) and President Trump have to say about arming teachers. The NRA’s position for arming teachers is simple: arming more people would deter shooters, especially in gun-free zones.
NRA’s CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne Lapierre says, “Our banks, our airports, our NBA games, our NFL games, our office buildings, our movie stars, our politicians — they’re all more protected than our children at school.” . . . “We surround and protect so much with armed security, while we drop our kids off at schools that are so-called gun-free zones.”
At a White House meeting with students and parents on Feb. 21, 2018, Trump said: “So let’s say you had 20 percent of your teaching force, because that’s pretty much the number — and you said it — an attack has lasted, on average, about three minutes. It takes five to eight minutes for responders, for the police, to come in. So the attack is over. If you had a teacher with — who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.”
Reason #2: Deterrence works
Is arming teachers a deterrence of school shootings?
Some people will reason that arming teachers is an effective way to deter or limit school threats or extreme violence. Emotionally, this feels and sounds like a reasonably good idea. But, once again, there have been no studies to prove that arming teachers works. Yes, there have been instances where armed citizens have minimized casualties.
New Hampshire Republican former state lawmaker Jim Rubens says: “In mass shooting incidents where you had a person inside the premises during the incident, you have an average of 2.5 people killed if there is someone with a firearm able to stop the crime in progress. In similar instances where there’s no such person with a firearm, you have an average of 18 people killed and dead as a result of it.” But, not so fast . . .
Those figures are inaccurate according to Dr. Pete Blair, the director of research for the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center (ALERRT) and an associate professor of criminal justice at Texas State University.
From a Politifact article: “Blair said it’s logical to assume casualties would be lower when civilians intervene before police arrive, but his research documented very few incidents that were actually stopped because a civilian was carrying a gun.”
Politifact states: “One of the most comprehensive studies of recent active shooter events suggests the average of 18 deaths when police stop the shooter is far too high. The study of more than 100 incidents determined the median number of people killed or wounded in all active shooter situations was five. The study documented only nine incidents out of dozens in which the number of people shot was 14 or higher. Conclusions about the number of deaths when an armed civilian takes action are also problematic because very limited data exists.” For more information on this story, read Politifact’s article.
Reason #3: Arming teachers is cost-effective
Certainly, arming teachers is cost effective, right?
Not necessarily, Consider the liability of having armed teachers. Misfires and accidental shootings could lead to wrongful death lawsuits, potentially bankrupting a school.
The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., published an article in February 2018 titled, “There are ways to make schools safer and teachers stronger — but they don’t involve guns.”
Here’s a passage from that article: “Let’s also consider the potential cost. Assuming schools will need to foot the bill of regular training for their armed teachers (and perhaps even guns as well), the costs can escalate quickly when arming 10-20 percent of the 3.2 million public school teachers in America, running an estimated tab of at least $250 million. Adding in, say, a modest $500 bonus to armed teachers would give an extremely conservative cost estimate of over $650 million, or just shy of $1,000 per armed teacher annually. Depending on implementation specifics, the total cost could easily be two to five times that much.”
Here’s a more practical example. Let’s look at putting security guards in a school with 1,400 students in the San Francisco Bay area.
Here are the typical costs associated with protecting this school:
- One armed resource officer (or a police officer): $110,000 ($150,000 including benefits, etc.)
- Two unarmed security officers: $100,000 ($140,000 including benefits, etc.)
- Total: $290,000 (other geographical areas would most likely face lower costs)
Now let’s look at the same school and see what it would cost to complement the current resource (police) officer with a canine security team:
- Add one canine security handler and one dog: $140,000
- Total: $140,000/year (including benefits, etc.)
Well, you forgot one important fact: One canine security team (dog and handler) is the equivalent of five unarmed security guards. If you had two canine security teams, your school would essentially have the equivalent of 10 unarmed guards. Also, consider the fact that your school will face lower insurance premiums because canine security teams are unarmed.
3 reasons against arming teachers
Teachers went into the business of teaching to teach. Their calling was to teach, not be armed guards. There’s a lot of national discussion about arming teachers. But what arguments are there against arming teachers?
It turns out many.
Let’s look at three reasons against arming teachers.
Reason #1: Arming teachers presents a unique set of risks to students and faculty
Here’s a list of arguments against arming teachers that appeared in the Violence Policy Center article Violence Policy Center Backgrounder: Arm Teachers? The Facts Argue Against It.
The gun, by definition, would potentially be available to every student, teacher, and school visitor.
- Moreover, those contemplating armed attacks on schools would know that a gun is available and could act accordingly.
Now examine these two statistics:
- One study found that 21 percent of officers killed with a handgun were shot with their own service weapon.
- Trained law enforcement officials have only an average 20 percent hit ratio in armed confrontations, meaning that only 20 percent of shots fired hit the intended target.
What do these two statistics mean when it comes arming teachers?
It means we need to ask the question, “How can teachers who teach all year long be proficient at hitting a target when even highly trained professional police officers and law enforcement officials struggle hitting their targets?
How will teachers fare in close quarters with an active shooter? Not well, judging by this stat:
- From 1990 to 1999, nearly 75 percent of police officers feloniously killed by suspects died within a 10-foot radius of the offender.
And what about the risks from losing firearms?
- The Department of Homeland Security reported that between fiscal years 2014 and 2016, its personnel lost a total of 228 firearms. Many losses occurred because officers did not properly secure their firearms.
Reason #2: Teachers want to focus on teaching (not on being armed guards)
Do teachers want to be armed?
The answer is no.
According to the National Education Association, 74% of educators oppose arming teachers.
Randi Weingarten, president of the National Federation of Teachers, says in response to Trump’s proposal to arm teachers: “Teachers don’t want to be armed, we want to teach. We don’t want to be, and would never have the expertise to be, sharp shooters [sic]; no amount of training can prepare an armed teacher to go up against an AR-15. When you have seconds to act when you hear the code for an active shooter, is a teacher supposed to use those seconds getting her gun instead of getting her students to safety?”
Reason #3: If trained police officers have a low hit rate, can you imagine the hit rate of armed teachers?
School shootings happen within three to four minutes; that’s when most of the casualties occur. For an armed teacher to have a decent chance to engage the shooter, that teacher must be located near the shooter. Why does that teacher have to be located near the shooter?
Because if an armed teacher is several minutes away from the shooting, most of the casualties have already occurred. Imagine a teacher having to protect the students, lock the door, and run to engage the shooter. Most likely, it would be too late for the armed teacher to make a difference in the outcome.
Even if the armed teacher could engage the shooter, statistics show that a well-trained police officer has a 17%-43% hit rate. Can you imagine the poor hit rate of armed teachers who don’t train nearly as much as professionally trained police officers?
Now imagine this. A perpetrator enters a school. Teachers lock/jam their doors. Students hide as best as they can. While all this is going on, canine security teams are responding within seconds and moving toward the shooting scene. The dogs will attack whoever moves the most; in this case, it would be the perpetrator, since the staff and students are hiding.
If a teacher chooses to use those precious seconds to protect her students, those same seconds can be used by a canine security team to rush the perpetrator. The perpetrator’s mindset has been foiled and disrupted. The perpetrator now must worry about and focus on a dog charging at him at 30 mph.
The perpetrator is dealing with lots of psychological factors in the heat of the moment. A fast-moving dog is extremely difficult for a perpetrator to hit accurately. Canines don’t have psychological factors to deal with. Remember, the dog is naturally focused on anything or anyone moving.
For decades, dogs have been used in combat to protect our military personnel in dangerous and life-threatening situations. In most cases, the dog will prevail; it’s in the dog’s DNA to accomplish its goal — to defeat the perpetrator.
Want to know more?
Mark Bosque is a security consultant and owner of K9 X-Factor. His company can reduce hospital and school security concerns with canine security teams.
K9 X-Factor partners with hospitals and schools that are seeking an alternative approach to protecting their employees while reducing expensive liability issues related to having armed security guards.
K9 X-Factor is unique because your hospital or school gets “friendly first” dogs without sacrificing the safety of patients, students, and employees. Visit our website for more information. Whether you want to buy a canine or lease a security canine team from K9 X-Factor, message me to learn whether a canine security team is right for you.