In an article that went viral throughout the gun community the Kansas City Star chronicled a group of Missouri educators training to “end the fight” against active shooters in a school environment.
While few within the gun community would argue against allowing capable and responsible teachers, staffers, school administrators from keeping and bearing arms for self-defense while at work, there are some rather interesting questions the article raised.
Among them are the following: What should the training requirements be? What should they carry? How much should taxpayers be willing to spend to train prospective candidates?
What should the training requirements be?
Ideally, the answer to that question would be as much as it takes to get the participant up to speed on how to safely and effectively use a firearm, not only in the tranquil setting of their local range but in stressful, gut-wrenching and hair-raising conditions. Clearly, for anyone who’s ever been around firearms, this is no small task. It can take weeks, even months before one feels comfortable deploying a weapon under duress in chaotic situations (But even with all the training in the world, there is no guarantee how one will respond when the stuff hits the fan).
Though for former Missouri Highway Patrol trooper Greg Martin, who now runs Shield Solutions, LLC, the training school featured in the KC Star article, the answer to that question is, at least in part, a 40-hour, paramilitary training course that stresses “weapons maintenance, threat identification, discretionary shooting, one-handed shooting, shooting while moving, barricade shooting and ‘the warrior mindset.'”
The participants who attend this course will spend five hours in a classroom and 35 hours on a range where they will be subjected to a high-pressure and intense training environment that includes rigorous physical activity, e.g. participants are forced to run uphill when mistakes are made. Instructors for Shields Solutions are all former or active law enforcement personnel, some even have military experience.
Given the demands of the course, not everyone makes the cut in which case the school district may send another applicant to cycle into the program.
One such teary-eyed elementary teacher was overwhelmed by the uphill sprints as a result of her poor marksmanship.
“She’s not going to make it,” said Dan Wehmer, the Shield Solutions sales manager. “She can’t handle the stress. And if she can’t handle it out here, what would she do in a real situation?”
After some self-assessing, the woman attempted to diagnose the problem, “I have to stop thinking scenario so much and start shooting,” she told the newspaper.
The extent that Shield Solutions program will prepare one to stop an active shooter is unclear. But what is clear is that some training is better than none. And in looking at some of the alternative defense postures against school shooters where teachers and students are told to crouch down, hide under their desks or as a last resort confront the deranged gunman with a blunt object (the equivalent of bringing less than a knife to a gunfight) it’s rather evident one could do much worse than adopt Shield Solutions’ protocol.
What should they carry?
Shield Solutions instructor Don Crowley recommends that each of his trainees carry a Glock 19, because it is “concealable, easy to handle and it goes bang every time.”
The Glock 19 is not a bad choice because it is a rather inexpensive, ubiquitous and reliable handgun, but one wonders if it wouldn’t be more prudent to allow trainees to select their own weapon of choice. Confidence after all is key. And confidence with a firearm comes from familiarity. If one is more familiar with a M&P Shield, Springfield XDS, CZ P-07 Duty or any number of other compact/subcompact, reliable, easy-to-conceal weapons, why not permit them to train with the weapon they are most confident using?
Though, to this objection one can easily say that the best weapon to use is the one you have closest at hand. In this case, on the training grounds of Shield Solutions, that’s the Glock 19.
From Crowley’s experience, the trainees do just fine with this weapon, even those who are new to firearms. By the end of the week, the vast majority of his students are hitting their targets with 90 to 95 percent accuracy. And those who can’t make it work with the Glock 19, that is those who can’t shoot better than 90 percent, will fail the course and the district will need to send in a new recruit.
How much should taxpayers be willing to spend to train prospective candidates?
For the ten Missouri districts who’ve signed up with Shield Solutions, the cost appears to be rather steep. At $17,500 the company will train two staff members who will upon completion of their training also become employees of Shield Solutions.
The armed staffers, called “School Protection Officers,” will receive an additional stipend for their participation in the program, though like air marshals flying on a commercial airline their involvement with Shield Solutions will not be publicized so that in the event of an active shooter situation the staffer will stand a chance of catching the gunman off guard.
Another reason why the cost seems exorbitant is due to the insurance costs that go along with arming school personnel. Insurance providers told districts that their policies would be terminated should they opt to put guns in schools which in turn dissuaded many districts from pursuing a training program. To solve this problem, Shield Solutions said it would provide $3 million of co-insurance to districts to help meet their insurance dilemma. Undoubtedly, part of that $17,500 fee is to pay for that insurance premium.
Put in that context the fee seems somewhat reasonable, and perhaps as a testament to its affordability at least three more schools have signed on to the program with several more lining up at the negotiating table.
“One superintendent told us at one time that the idea would never fly with his board,” said Wehmer. “Now we’re on the July agenda.”
While money will always be one major barrier to arming teachers and staff, it’s arguably not the biggest. The biggest obstacle is convincing school boards, parents and administrators that the firearms training will be an effective way to thwart an attack.
“We could give (teachers) all the training in the world as to how to a shoot a gun, but knowing when to shoot poses a major problem,” Steve Smith, superintendent of the Bibb County School District in Georgia, which recently enacted laws allowing schools to begin exploring the idea, told the New York Post. “The folks we work with day in and day out don’t have that.”
But to Smith and other skeptics one can only say that you don’t know until you try. Thankfully, now that Missouri has made real headway on this front, we may one day have a more definitive case to make to assuage worries and win over hearts and minds.