Want to stop mass shootings? Let’s get more guns in the right hands
The recent mass murders on London Bridge ended eight minutes after they began, when armed English police officers arrived and shot the killers. Other police officers, who had batons but not firearms, happened to be near the scene when the attack began. Some of them fled, according to an eyewitness account published in The Guardian. Another officer bravely used his baton against the multiple men with knives, incurring severe injury. Some people threw chairs at the assailants. One man heroically fought the terrorists with his bare hands, despite being stabbed repeatedly.
For defense against a murderous attack, batons and chairs are better than nothing, but not nearly as effective as a firearm. The fact of the matter is that more firearms in the right hands mean fewer deaths from mass attacks.
In the United States as in the United Kingdom, the casualty count often depends on the time it takes for the first armed defender to arrive. At London Bridge, that was eight minutes. In December 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, armed police entered the school in less than six minutes, by which time 26 students and teachers were dead.
One year later, at Arapahoe High School, in the Denver suburbs, a would-be mass-killer’s attack ended eighty seconds after it began. Fortunately, an Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Deputy was already stationed at the school, and he immediately rushed into action. One student was killed, many fewer than the criminal had intended.
Mass killers often select targets because of the absence of armed defenders at the scene. The Aurora theater murderer selected a “gun-free” theater, which forbade licensed handgun carry by its patrons. He had chosen not to attack an airport because of “substantial security.” The Santa Barbara murderer decided against attempting a massacre at a public Halloween party because “there were too many cops” and “one gunshot from a cop will end everything.” The Charleston church murderer abandoned his original target, the College of Charleston, “because of the security.” The Los Angeles Jewish Community Center murderer passed on three other Jewish institutions because the “security was too tight.” In Detroit, a would-be ISIS murderer, who was stopped before he could execute his plan, targeted a large church since “people are not allowed to carry guns in church.”
The United Kingdom could reduce the toll of terrorist attacks by arming and training all police officers, instead of just a select few. The result would be more jihadis stopped after 80 seconds instead of 480 seconds—a life or death difference.
In the United States, almost all police officers and sheriffs’ deputies are armed. But they cannot be everywhere at once. In many rural counties, a Sheriff’s Office may have fewer than a dozen deputies to cover hundreds of square miles. The response time to send a deputy to a rural elementary school can be half an hour or more.
Accordingly, more American schoolteachers are recognizing that they must be their own first responders—to defend themselves and the children entrusted to their care. Since 1995 in Utah, every public school teacher with a concealed handgun carry permit has been allowed to carry at school when teaching.
In those 22 years, there has been one incident of firearms misconduct by a teacher. In 2014, a teacher who failed to follow the standard safety rules caused an accidental discharge that struck a toilet. There have been no instances of teachers angrily shooting students, or students stealing guns from teachers. By coincidence or not, there have been no mass attacks on Utah schools.
A new program, which began in Ohio and is now spreading nationally, provides armed schoolteachers with extraordinary training—far more than the basic training needed for law-abiding citizens to obtain a general permit for concealed carry.
The program is called FASTER: Faculty/Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response. It provides K-12 schoolteachers with 26 hours of hands-on training by instructors with police, SWAT, and federal law enforcement backgrounds. The training includes how to disable an active shooter, and how to provide emergency medical treatment to victims. To pass the class, the teacher must demonstrate a level of firearms proficiency at least equal to the level required for certified peace officers.
Of course, no teacher is forced to participate in FASTER. It is designed for educators who want the capability of thwarting an active shooter and rescuing injured students.
Sponsored by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation, FASTER has trained nearly a thousand educators in Ohio. Now, through a joint effort between Coloradans for Civil Liberties and the Independence Institute, FASTER training will be available to Colorado educators starting this month.
Colorado law already allows teachers to carry defensive firearms, when designated as school security officers. FASTER ensures that willing teachers will have excellent training, when children’s lives are in peril.
The rebuilt elementary school in Sandy Hook is now protected by armed guards. In schools that cannot afford to hire separate guards, many teachers are choosing to take on additional responsibilities. The FASTER program will help them save lives.
David Kopel (@DaveKopel) is research director for the non-profit Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver, Colorado. Joseph Greenlee (@Joseph_Greenlee) is an attorney in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.