“In the year and a half since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, as America has struggled to find the answer to its epidemic of school shootings, some districts have decided that teachers are the ultimate first responders and need to learn to shoot back,” kansascity.com reports. “Four Missouri school districts recently sent staffers to this hilltop range for five days of firearms training. The instructors, all current law enforcement officers, refer to the teachers’ ‘unique situation’— essentially close-quarters combat while youngsters scream and run about.” I don’t know what all they teach the teachers but here are three lesson I’ve learned from interviews, training and the TTAG school shooting simulation . . .
1. Communication is key
On one hand, armed teachers should hide, stay quiet and ambush the bad guy(s). On the other hand, an armed teacher should take control of the situation, coordinate non-combatants, marshal available resources and attack [see below]. Regardless of the tactics employed, the overall strategy remains the same: enable responding police officers.
I’m not saying armed teachers should necessarily wait for the good guys. They should eliminate the threat(s) if they can. But the cops are coming. They have rifles, teammates with rifles, bullet resistant outerwear, communications and (one hopes) better training. The more information the cops have about the number of threats and their location the better. In that sense, a cell phone could be a hell of a lot more important than a firearm.
Communication with students, other teachers and (especially) other armed teachers is also key. Armed teachers should have a plan. They should share that plan with others, so that everyone has a good idea of what you, the armed teacher, is going to do. [Note: I reject the idea that the identity of armed teachers should be kept secret, but that’s the subject of another article.] Implement that active shooter response plan using direct, unmistakable orders.
At the same time, armed teachers should understand that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. When the plan changes they need to let people know. Again, in no uncertain terms. Mindful that the more stress-based firearms training they receive – in an actual school environment – the better their ability to think under pressure.
2. Shooting an active shooter isn’t that difficult – if you’re not out in the hallways hunting the killer or killers
Teachers protecting students inside a classroom have an enormous strategic advantage over spree killers/terrorists: the funnel of death. That’s the military and law enforcement term for doorways. Makes perfect sense. It’s a constrained space that perfectly frames a target in terms of both time and space.
In our school shooting sim, even the least experienced shooter had no problem landing shots on target when they had even the slightest warning that a bad guy might be coming through the door. I repeat: every single one of our teachers landed shots on the terrorist target in this scenario, regardless of how the bad guy entered the room. (In the case above, using a student for a human shield.)
No “getting off the X.” No shooting around innocents. Assume a defensive position and wait. Done.
3. Shooting an active shooter is hugely difficult – if you’re not in a classroom assuming a defensive position
The SIG SAUER Active Shooter course was a humbling experience. We learned that a handgun is a lousy long-distance weapon – especially against a rifle. Or a bomb. Or multiple attackers. We learned that schools are a horrific combat environment; they’re warrens of corridors, doors and hiding places. Not to mention screaming students and the possibility – make that virtual certainty – of cops mistaking armed good guys for armed bad guys and shooting them dead.
Bottom line: when you’re outgunned and/or out-manned with a cross hair painted on your chest, speed, surprise and violence of action are the order of the day. Run up to the bad guy or guys and shoot them dead? Good luck with that. But yes. The closer an armed teacher gets to the killer(s), the less accuracy they need. (Contact shot? Absolutely. Head shot? If you can.) If a teacher’s caught out of the classroom, getting off the X and into the fight and/or providing cover for retreating students is just about all they’ve got.
I support armed teachers
I also support armed teacher training. But a lot of what teachers learn in these anti-active shooter training courses is simple common sense. Training is nowhere near as important as making sure there’s a good guy with a gun ready to defend otherwise defenseless students. The more armed good guys in schools the better. Including parents.