The National Rifle Association’s National School Shield Task Force has released its post-Newtown report on school safety. It’s about as controversial as the move to put healthy food into school lunches. The Task Force’s findings—small schools have the worst safety, safety plans are often inadequate, School Resource Officers are a good thing, etc.—are hardly a revelation. Their six recommendations are equally unobjectionable. What is surprising is what the report doesn’t include. But first . . .
In terms of “best practices,” the Task Force report is a tour de force. It highlights effective prevention techniques to guard against potential school shooters within the student population. It illustrates the importance of physical security—at great length and in considerable detail. It analyzes bus movements and transportation “vulnerabilities.”
The Task Force report offers mission critical information for schools looking to improve their emergency response plans; including the provision of an Incident Command Center and the processes and equipment needed to assure communications during an active shooter incident. There’s even a bit on how to reunify students and parents in a crisis.
The National School Shield Task Force report is comprehensive, with a plethora of helpful links. Anyone interested in school safety, anyone tasked with protecting children against an active shooter or shooters (including a terrorist attack), is well advised to eyeball the document.
Strangely (politically?) the word “armed” doesn’t appear until page 92. This despite NRA Veep Wayne LaPierre’s post-Newtown call for an armed guard in every school in America. In fact, the Task Force takes a decidedly non-forceful approach to the topic of armed defenders inside schools.
Our goal in the ensuing discussion is neither to advocate for nor against all or any of the possibilities in a specific case; rather, it is to provide a cogent analysis of some of the potential benefits as well as the accompanying risks to introducing armed personnel of various forms into schools. The ultimate decision regarding whether to introduce any form of armed security at a school must always be made by local stakeholders on the ground; nevertheless, it is the belief of the National School Shield Task Force that many schools across the country stand to benefit from the presence of armed security and,in the quest to make our schools safer, should leave no option off the table.
So much for NRA “extremism.” Or, I’m afraid, efficacy. And maybe even credibility. Who was it that said “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”? Why that was NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre, immediately after the Sandy Hook spree killing—at the same time he urged Uncle Sam to put an armed guard in every school in America.
The NRA Task Force moots four types of armed school security personnel: School Resource Officers (SROs), private contracted security, armed citizen volunteers; and principles, teachers and other school staff. The Task Force is highly antagonistic to the two latter categories.
Reading between the lines, Asa Hutchinson’s mob actively argue against armed “non-professionals” safeguarding schools. Here’s their caution against armed volunteers (similar to the warnings issued about armed school personnel):
. . . because such an individual is neither an SRO nor a professional security contractor, an additional burden may be placed on a school or school district in ensuring that such an individual is highly trained to operate with a weapon in a school environment. It is absolutely imperative that schools consult with subject matter experts, local law enforcement, and other stakeholders in ensuring that any individual carrying a weapon on school property undergo a physical exam and preferably psychological testing, as well as extensive initial and in-service training throughout their service . . .
[Schools] should seriously consider the legal and physical risk of having a weapon on school grounds and that even the most highly trained individuals are capable of negligent behavior with their weapons . . . A multitude of other choices-
including but not limited to weapon choice, weapon security, weapon retention, ammunition choice, weapon ownership, and weapon storage–must be addressed by the school and qualified security and weapons experts.
I profoundly disagree. Not only is the Task Force giving ammunition to those who believe that citizens shouldn’t be armed generally, they’re making it seem as if defending school children through force of arms requires spec ops training.
As a graduate of SIG SAUER’s Active Shooter Instructors’ Training Course I recommend school-specific training for armed defenders. And a rifle. But TTAG’s active school shooter simulation proved that specialized training isn’t necessary to take out a spree killer. A .38 revolver did the trick in the hands of “rank amateur.”
Erecting barriers to armed school personnel is counterproductive, to say the least. If more guns (in the hands of law-abiding adults) equals less crime on the streets, why doesn’t that formula apply in our schools? Which brings us to what’s missing from the equation: a call to remove barriers to arming members of the school community.
For example, NRA’s National School Shield Task Force report says nothing about repealing the Gun-Free School Zones Act (GFSZA) of 1990. The Act makes it a federal offense to carry a firearm inside a school zone unless the gun owner has a carry permit (so much for Constitutional carry) and the school doesn’t ban firearms from its grounds and the surrounding area.
Clock this text: “Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as preempting or preventing a State or local government from enacting a statute establishing gun free school zones as provided in this subsection.” In other words, the GFSZA surrenders Americans’ Constitutional right to keep and bear arms at the school gate.
In many states, teachers, administrators and school staff members who want to carry a firearm to defend their lives and the lives of their charges can’t do so legally. The GFSZA also reaffirms local and/or state prohibitions against parents (a group completely ignored in the Task Force report) carrying a firearm in the school parking lot, never mind onto school grounds.
Clearly, the NRA Task Force decided to take a non-controversial, relatively “gun-free” approach to school security. In so doing, they may have gained supporters amongst school communities antagonistic to gun rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Let’s hope so, because that’s the only reasonable excuse for failing to fully confront the question of civilian armed defense within our schools.