In the wake of the most recent mass shooting in a Florida school, and some threats of similar violence here in Michigan that have followed, legislators are looking for solutions. However, coming up with ways to deter the threat of violence in our schools is a major challenge, and one that has caused a great deal of debate. So what are the proposed answers we’re looking at right now? Well, as we shared with you a little while ago, arming Michigan’s teachers is one possible answer.
How do you test to see what’s the best solution?
It’s a highly controversial proposition, and many people are opposed to the idea. So what would be the best way to figure out if this solution works? Well, how about having a few teachers try it out? Obviously, one can’t simply recreate a school shooter situation for the benefit of training, so the active shooter training drill that police officers use is one option. It’s essentially like a hyper-realistic video game, ‘played’ on a large screen, but perhaps ‘played ‘ is the wrong word, because this feels far too real! Obviously no teacher is likely to have the same degree or training or practice that police officers receive and that alone is reason to not think that civilians taking part in a police drill would give an accurate comparison.
Now let’s meet the teachers. Bob Fite has taught social studies for 35 years, and is a licensed CPL holder who visits the gun range to train occasionally. Katherine Montie has only taught high school math for a few months now, but she’s a licensed CPL holder with lots of experience and a good eye. Chad Keisel, on the other hand, has been a high school biology teacher for 24 years and he’s never owned or fired a gun before in his life.
So how did they do in the drill? In truth: not well.
Montie did the best job out of the three teachers, staying calm in the first scenario and killing the shooter before he could harm any of her students. But in the second scenario she didn’t realize there was more than one shooter, and because multiple people were shooting at her, she was killed without having hit even one of the shooters. She also admitted that if she had known the student shooters, she wouldn’t have been able to pull the trigger. Therefore, she would likely not be a good candidate if teachers have the option to be armed.
Fite, who is licensed and relatively comfortable with a gun, had his finger on the trigger the entire time, which is not a good practice. However, being ready didn’t do him any good, as he hesitated too often, and as such, missed the mark every time. He also pointed out that he had reservations about firing a weapon inside a school during a chaotic situation – what if there were students running around? What if he accidentally shot one of them? Therefore, Fite, a man will little training and lots of hesitations, probably isn’t a good choice as an armed teacher.
And Keisel, who had no weapons training or experience, was killed almost immediately without firing a single bullet in self defense. “I thought it was only one guy, how easy is that? But if there’s kids running around in the background, I would not shoot,” he told ABC News. So as it turns out, familiarity with the weapon and training make a big difference. Can Michigan train it’s teachers to defend their students while protecting themselves? Perhaps the answer is that with adequate training and practice, maybe we can. It sounds like Michigan would need to provide adequate and ongoing training for any person authorized to carry a weapon in a school.
How did the teachers feel about the experience?
All three of the teachers who tried the drill said it was frightening. They also agreed that it was nothing like the way they had imagined it. And all three pointed out that carrying a gun with them during school hours was concerning. As Montie pointed out, she was a small female who has students that are bigger and stronger than her in her classes. Her major concern is that one of her students could overpower her and take the gun without having to try too hard, which made every school day scarier! These sound like the same concerns that a police officer might also voice.
All in all, it was agreed that in order for this to be a smart and safe option, the training given to teachers who plan to carry guns at school needs to be extensive and ongoing. That raises the question of funding – does the state have the money to provide enough teachers with the right training, to carry weapons in school and handle school shooter situations in a calm and decisive manner? It’s a good question, and one that we don’t have the answer to. But we will be watching as the conversation unfolds, and keeping you updated when there’s important news to share.