Missouri teachers prepare to ‘end the fight’ against school shooters

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).

Trainees line up before their targets at the Shield Solutions range near West Planes, Missouri.  (Photo: Kansas City Star)

Trainees line up before their targets at the Shield Solutions range near West Planes, Missouri. (Photo: Kansas City Star)

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 class is allegedly being punished for making a mistake or missing their targets.  (Photo credit: Kansas City Star)

The class is allegedly being punished for making a mistake or missing their targets. (Photo credit: Kansas City Star)

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.

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Clyde Ginn June 9, 2017, 4:13 pm

    The only issue with retired Volunteers is most pension plans especially union controlled plans, don’t allow you to volunteer work you would normally be paid for.

  • Clyde Ginn June 9, 2017, 1:57 pm

    As a retired Law Enforcement Training Academy Director and firearms instructor, I do NOT recommend a Glock in any form or any of the clones that are out there. This is why, by design the Glock is made to function effectivly in the hands of a male or strong grip shooter. I if the weapon is held in a loose or weak grip, ie by an injured person , the inertia generated by recoil causes a stove-pipe-stoppage making it unreliable. In the heat of the moment in a crisis this could be a life or death issue. Sig, Ruger , Beretta, the 1911 platforms, Czech, and almost any other platform would be more desirable. In the hands of an inexperienced shooter a revolver, while not as flashy and limited to 6 shots is almost flawless. As for training, that should be a collaboration between law enforcement standards and training and the state department of education. It should be legislated to avoid lawsuits and liability issues for the teachers and schools.

  • RetNavet June 9, 2017, 5:58 am

    While an armed citizenry is indeed a cornerstone to a peaceful and orderly society, theoretically the best use dollar for dollar to right and repair our country, the best use of money would be for the eradication/expulsion of libtards from the education system at all levels…..would solve about 99.9% of what ills the country. Like the man said: Once you stop hearing sir and maam, all the rest is soon to follow.

  • Vic February 21, 2017, 10:14 am

    IMO there are sound reasons to go one step further and require commonality of weapons.

    This is a group of people practicing defensive firearms use in a restricted environment for a common purpose..
    Use of the the Glock 19 (if that were to be selected) will be yet one more aid/quick cue as to the identity (obviously not definitive) to responding persons. The ability to exchange magazines in the event of weapons failure or other issue. Group familiarity with weaponry..These are the same sound reasons Police Departments as well as the Military seek uniformity of weapons within units.

    • Clyde Ginn June 9, 2017, 4:11 pm

      Also retired military, I have been in a active shooter situation, at a school, you are not working as a team you are isolated with your students. Yes the military went to a common weapon but not for practical logistics more of an economy issue and they went with berreta, now they are going to Sig FN for the same reason I stated. Glock has reliability issues in inexperienced hands. This definitely wasn’t a decision based on cost effectiveness because the Sig is $128.00 per unit higher than the Glock on the bid.

  • Floyd McCarty July 8, 2014, 2:53 pm

    I do understand the need for schools to be safe invironments for our children. I am though more partial to
    POedgunowner’s excellent idea. Missouri schools aren’t the mark of excellence in the public school arena so why add another problem to the equation with the limited at best training that is afforded by Sheild Solution. Who is obviously a private company trying to make money from an education system that is failing at educating. That is the Missouri way though waste money they don’t have and charge the tax payers. Not the way to go MISSOURI.
    POLICEMEN are trained capable and definitely a more reasonable solution. At those prices they could buy their own training facility. Or maybe they could really put effort into the children and even the perspective problem child that seems to be what Missouri is HUNTING for. This is Missouri madness in motion and definitely a sickening solution that they are intending on robbing the tax payers.

    • Erik Clark August 29, 2014, 11:15 am

      Amen on this. I feel like this private company might have discovered a get rich quick plan.

      God bless you for posting this opinion. I will be praying for these men to get right with God.

  • POedgunowner July 8, 2014, 12:10 am

    I suggested a solution that was ignored by the Missouri powers that be. I am a retired police officer, a LEOSA concealed permit holder, have faced gunfire without wetting my pants, and suggested that Missouri put out a call for volunteers from retired officers to act as school guards, which I’m sure many would do free gratis if the school district would insure them for liability. Retired officers are already trained, many are proficient with guns, and those that are not could be weeded out quickly, and would be much cheaper than starting from scratch training novices. That was apparently too simple a solution for any government agency. You apparently have to throw great amounts of money at any problem, and achieve mediocre results to satisfy legislators.

    • Vic February 21, 2017, 10:58 am

      This is a very sound suggestion.. An option unfortunately POedgunowner is also correct in that we can be reasonably sure currently few decision makers would/will adopt for the very reasons expressed at the last of the article. (Keeping thing simple and cost effective).

      • Doug June 9, 2017, 12:33 pm

        Retierd LEO in this role is an excellent idea, however, this would have to be full time on premises, and to expect them to do it as volunteers is not reasonable. I see the enabling of some currently employed and willing staff to train and carry concealed as an effective deterrent to attack, but only if the fact that some staff may be armed is publicized by signs. This creates the uncertainty of a risk-free attack by someone. With the current laws, the risk-free attack is certain, at least for 5 minutes until armed help arrives.

  • Russ July 7, 2014, 10:31 am

    I agree with Eric & Steve.
    I would just add that training should be offered to all district employees and that it be federally funded and optional not mandatory.

  • D. Hicks July 7, 2014, 8:44 am

    Good idea. I agree on training. I worked as a Firearm’s instructor.and the best choice for a novice shooter was a revolver .Most new shooter’s could handle a .38 special .I disagree with the Glock or any semi auto ,it’s a bad choice for a beginner .What’s handier to carry than a small double action 38 special revolver or for a bigger punch ,44 S&W special. I carry a COLT .45 automatic,but I’m not a new trainee.Thanks for allowing my comment.

    • SmokeHillFarm July 10, 2014, 5:11 am

      I absolutely agree, and especially if these are relatively inexperienced shooters (before this short training course).

      Semi-autos have too many choices & complications that can only slow them down or cause confusion & mistakes when things go bad quickly.

      With revolvers, when kids are being slaughtered in front of you, other kids are screaming & there is blood everywhere, you only have to do two simple things — point and shoot. I consider myself a very experienced shooter (21 yrs in the Army & many years as an instructor & competitor), but I want to make my choices CLEAR and SIMPLE when things go bad fast — not wondering whether there is one in the chute, where the safety is & whether it’s on or off.

      Revolvers cannot jam. ALL semis jam, how rare that is is irrelevant. With a revolver, if you get a bad cartridge (about the only thing that can go wrong), you simply pull the trigger again. You don’t have a round jamming the whole mechanism. And — a sudden, badly-placed grip won’t jam your slide & turn your gun into just a shiny rock to throw.

      I like my semi-autos. I have about a dozen. But I do not carry them for defense, and when I was a dealer & instructor I ALWAYS recommended that people select a good-quality revolver for defensive carry.

      • WhiteFalcon June 9, 2017, 9:48 am

        Revolver certainly can and do jam. I have had it happen to me on a few occasions. It is true that they do it far less frequently than semi autos do, but the fact is that they can jam. All that being said, I do like the idea of using retired police officers in the schools for that type of protection. They should have all the training and expertise to do the job as well as it can be done, but I would be hesitant to hire one that has done nothing but desk work all the time since he may well have not been under the pressure of the real situation.

  • Steve July 7, 2014, 7:58 am

    Unrestricted ability of licensed conceal carry PTA members to carry their firearms into the school. They, their children, and their guns get to go through the front door of the school. And advertise that it is so.

  • Eric D Henson July 7, 2014, 6:08 am

    School Bus Drivers (those that would choose to do so) need to be trained, also. Buses with children on board out on the street are very vulnerable. ie: Southern Alabama, 2013.

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