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Notice the word “the.” An armed guard is not “the” answer to school shootings. And no, I’m not going to prattle on about a comprehensive approach to preventing active shooters in this nation’s schools. I’m simply pointing out that an arm school guard can be counter-productive. If nothing else it creates a false sense of security. Think of it this way . . .

If an active shooter wants to inflict murderous mayhem on a school he can simply shoot the guard and carry on with his carnage. I say simply, but . . . how easy would that be? A lot harder than attacking a school without an armed guard, obviously. But not terribly difficult as TTAG proved during our simulation.

We set up a simple test . . .

A bunch of people filed by someone playing the role of an armed guard. One of those people took out a gun and shot the guard. The guard knew it was coming. How many times did he stop the attack? Not once. As Nick’s report concluded, “the armed security guard appears to be ineffective at interdicting the active shooter.”

Our simulation was relatively crude. But common sense alone suggests a determined killer could catch an armed guard on the hop.

The guard will be to identify, especially if the shooter is someone within the school population. Even if the guard is a former SEAL, they can’t be situationally aware all the time. They will lose focus. And crucially, as in all gunfights, the attacker has the first mover advantage.

It’s actually worse than that.

According to the just released book Active Shooter Events and Responsespree killers carried multiple weapons in 40 percent of the attacks surveyed (which includes gang shootings on multiple targets). The killer(s) used a rifle 27 percent of the time. And “While it is true that many active shooters will kill themselves either before the police arrive or when the attacker becomes aware that the police are on scene, the shooter aggressively fights the responding police officers in many cases.”

Banning or severely restricting the sale of “assault rifles” to prevent a school shooter or shooters from wielding same during their murderous rampage is a fool’s errand. Lest we forget, Adam Lanza shot his mother in the head twice to obtain her firearms before attacking the Sandy Hook Elementary School. In any case, expecting an armed guard with a handgun to take out a determined AR-wielding madman—or two or three or more—is highly problematic. As we saw at Columbine.

God forbid an armed school guard should carry a rifle. At the very least they should have immediate access to one. But even that doesn’t solve the strategic problems mentioned above. There is only one practical solution: multiple guards who can not be identified by the shooter. In other words, armed teachers.

When we ran the simulation with armed teachers they landed hits on the spree killer every single time. Why wouldn’t they? The mock teachers huddled the children in a corner and aimed their weapon at the doorway (a.k.a, the “fatal funnel”). Shooting an armed invader entering a classroom isn’t like shooting ducks in a barrel, but it’s not the hardest shot in the world either. As we demonstrated.

Equally, armed teachers are a far greater deterrent than a single armed guard. An active shooter (or shooters) contemplating assaulting a school with [some] pistol-packing teachers wouldn’t know if, when and where they’d face a counter-attack. (An armed teacher in a defensive situation wouldn’t have the same need for a rifle.) It would be a far more daunting prospect.

You know I’m right. You also know that the schools where teachers aren’t armed like, say, the entire Northeast, aren’t about to allow school personnel to pack heat. If shit got real (to coin a phrase) school and parents would start by hiring an armed guard, then add multiple roving guards, then build guard towers with machine guns.

How great is that? Not great at all. In fact, if there’s an “outbreak” of school shootings the “let’s hire a highly-trained professional” response—championed by the NRA no less—will move America closer to what it’s already in danger of becoming: a police state.

Eliminating the “gun free school zone” laws that prevent teachers, administrators and staff from tooling-up would be the single best move we could make to respond to the threat of school shootings. At least schools could move towards a more effective deterrent and response should they wise-up.

Of course, there are states where that’s already happened (e.g., my new home state of Texas). I know the NRA is the master of the art of the possible. But recommending an school armed guard for is a potentially worthless half-measure. I pray that I’m wrong.

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  1. There’s no doubt about it — the armed school guard is so behind the curve that if the shooter makes a quiet entry, the murderer will win every time.

    The question is, do school shooters have the b@lls? Defenseless people and children in gun free zones are targeted because school shooters are puss1es and snot-nosed bed-wetters who hate their mommies for toilet training them too soon, not because they’re commandos.

    Would a punk like that actually go up against a man who could shoot back? I’m not so sure.

    So, you’re right. Armed guards are good. Armed teachers and custodians are good. Putting them both together is much better than good.

    • If they’ll engage the cops, they’d engage a guard – although adrenaline and crescendoing bloodlust might be a contributing factor to the former.

      • True enough that if they’d take on a cop, they’d take on a guard. But engaging armed cops — has that ever happened in a school shooting scenario?

        • Off the top of my head, Columbine is the only school shooting where the goblins engaged the police. All school staff and properly vetted volunteers should be carrying on school grounds.

    • actually attacking the guard would be easier than fighting the cops; as has been pointed out, the guard can’t maintain situational awareness all the time, and can be easily taken off-guard(heh) whereas the cop is responding to a threat and has a general idea of where and what that threat is, and is already on the max level of alertness.

  2. RF used the phrase “common sense.”

    The end is nigh…!

    Seriously, I think armed parents in rotation is a good scenario, along with armed saff.

    Were NRA, ranges and even gun stores to donate time and materiel as needed, it’d be a PR move that’d knock Obama lin Biden right off their hobbyhorses – and they’d not get up.

    Can a school district declare itself a set of gun-friendly zones?

    • Can a school district declare itself a set of gun-friendly zones?

      If it’s not prohibited from doing so by state law, then the legal answer is yes. The Federal GFSZA allows as much. But politically, the answer is “unlikely.”

      • In Kansas, it might happen – although we’re not known for school shootings.

        Funny how good ol’ fashioned hardship breeds good behavior, while imagined hardship (I need them sneakers!) breeds the reverse.

    • A school district cannot declare itself a gun friendly zone, but the principle can give permission for one or more people to carry according to many state laws.

    • Yes, yes. The parents on rotation can help out in classrooms, too, as long as there’s one stationed near the entrance, too. Teachers ALWAYS need help! Sometimes they need a LOT of help.

      But what would the opposite of an “active shooter” be? A passive shooter? WTF is that?

      And GO BRUINS!!!

  3. Looking at this also from the mind of a child, as our own are, I Ithought Matt be advantageous to the conversation.

    I grew up in a high school that had, at times,2 to 3 sherriff deputies on campus at once. No less than 1.

    There was always a disadvantage to them being identifiable. If there were armed teachers that were not knowing who they were, I think a wee bit more respect would have been given by students, simply due to the unknown if you will.

  4. Trained and armed teachers is the best way to go. Offer a stipend for those willing to carry and confront active shooters. Teachers at all school shootings have demonstrated willingness and ability to put themselves at risk to protect children. It’s time to give them the tools to do more than just put themselves in between the harm and the child. They should be able to stop the one bringing harm.

    • “Teachers at all school shootings have demonstrated willingness and ability to put themselves at risk to protect children.”

      Agreed. The question now becomes “Are teachers who are seemingly willing to give their lives to protect children, willing to kill an active shooter?” You can’t protect your charges when you’re dead.

      Lanza shot the adults and moved on to the children. I don’t understand the logic against arming some of the staff. The only thing that can stop an active shooter immediately, is a gun. The cops aren’t there yet and obviously, signs don’t work.

  5. I think we should also consider who the guard is, are they competent? For example, the guard at my high school was a former officer, who got placed there for being terribly ineffective. She pulled her Glock half way out of the holster every time she passed a group of black students, usually with her finger on the trigger, it was actually fairly funny and sad that they trusted her to protect us. Guards are a solution sure, but we should make sure their actually able to do their job. I certainly wouldn’t trust her to do so when she cant handle an average criminal.

  6. RF: you do realize that variants of “Sh@t gets real” are featured in many of your favorite IGOTD recipient FPS Russia, right? I see 4 horsemen on the horizon, lol.

    • Wow, horrible typo. That’s what you get for talking to someone and typing at the same time. What I meant to say was:
      “RF: you do realize that variants of “Sh@t gets real” are featured in many of the videos of your favorite IGOTD recipient FPS Russia, right? I see 4 horsemen on the horizon, lol.”
      But now all humor has been lost, so you may as well delete this and the OP.

  7. There are about 100,000 public schools in the US. There is a serious school shooting where an armed guard might have time to get there and help – an ongoing massacre in the building as opposed to a targeted attack which is over before anyone knew it had started – every couple of years.

    So in other words, a school can expect a shooting event at all once every 20,000 years and a massacre once every well over 100,000. And for the other 99,999 of those years – and in the order of 10 billion taxpayer dollars – the school cop is going to have nothing to do but play hall monitor.

    Armed guards aren’t a solution because statistically this is a non problem. It’s the police state in search of an excuse.

    • +1

      This is why I think voluntarily armed teachers, custodians and parents – those with a personal interest in the school are the best solution. Not as some have suggested, multiple armed guards positioned close enough to provide back up – too expensive.

  8. If there is to be uniformed armed personnel, there must be multiple uniformed armed personnel, each within backup distance of the other. THAT would be a deterrent.

    The better choice would be CCWs at both ends of the school and in the centrally located admin office, at least four total.

  9. RF’s article is a well articulated and logical assessment of the options and strategies available for school security. Undercover security provided by competently trained school personnel carrying concealed and able to recognize and immediately respond to a deadly threat is a great solution. Deterrence by known threat of effective competent resistance with lethal force is a great way to complicate a bad actors plans and will likely send him looking for another venue for his moment of fame.

    But therein lies four problems:
    1) getting the various school boards and educators on board with the idea in spite of what will be severe parental and community resistance especially in the liberal bastions of our cities and urban communities.
    2) getting the armed educators trained to a level of effective competence with a commitment to recurring training that will satisfy the safety concerns of the community, board, and local government.
    3) and the biggest hurdle; inertia, building a bipartisan consensus that such an initiative is the correct strategy to peruse and actually enlisting the groups involved to invest the time and money to get it done.
    4) a determined bad actor is going to find another target. So you may save the kids at one school, but maybe not a different school, or a day care center, or a MacDonalds.

    Virtually nothing can be done informally any more especially where unions, various community groups, parents, teachers and government are involved.

    The idea of arming school personnel with concealed carry to put an end to any bad actors assault is a great plan, but the obstacles that must be overcome to implement such a plan are probably, in almost all instances…insurmountable.

  10. Plain clothes Air Marshal type armed guards are the answer ,not uniformed”shoot me on sight guards” and they rotate between schools regularly so it doesn’t ‘t get stag net nor routine,so bad guys can’t figure out ‘best opportunity ‘ sequences.Now go ahead and conduct your scenario ,when you don’t know who or where the guards are.So,Yes Armed guards ARE the answer.just not stupid ones!

  11. Some counties/districts in California are training teachers for CCW. Oddly enough, CCW holders are fine in CA in schools. Difficulty is getting the CCW of course, but it is being done. Heck even in LA county I know of one school working out such a plan to arm its teachers. Many do “get this” The difficulty is dealing with hoplophobes among parents.

    And that is a real difficulty. The teacher is acting in loco parentis. The parents have a say on how their children are taught, disciplined and yes protected. I think this makes it easier at a private or parochial school (and yes I know some CCW plans at Catholic schools), where the parents chose the school and therefore choose its enviroment, over public schools where parents are not so positioned and might be fairly upset.

  12. When has there ever been a silver bullet to security? A multi-facted approach coupled w/ vigilance is the answer 99.9% of the time.

    Let me be the bearer of bad news. There are too many soft targets in the U.S. (and the world) to protect in a meaningful way. There is no way to prepare for every contingency. The scenario that the culture at large is envisioning (and here at TTAG) is but one of many that can be carried out. How about a stand off attack – like in Stockton 1989? How about attacks using fire – like has occured in China over the last couple of years? How about a threat mentioned here at TTAG a while ago and dubbed:

    “the 500-pound amphetamine-crazed gorilla in the room”


    Wack-a-mole is a loser’s game. Doing things that generally make society better like improved police response time, eliminating gun free zones (I agree w/ this one), and keeping a watchful eye are realistic solutions w/ little to no drawbacks.

  13. Arm the teachers. Those who will! Give the credit to the politicians so their egos will be appeased. I still like LE in schools as a deterrence to drugs and bullying and liaison.

  14. The effect of a Uniformed Armed Guard in school is to serve as a deterrent. Adam Lanza stated he went there because it was an easy target where he could get a high body count.

    We’ve seen time after time that once met with armed resistance the shooter turns their gun on themselves. The recent “attempt” at Albany High School in Oregon illustrates this nicely as the perp had in his notes, “Shoot self before being engaged by SWAT”. So if we know they give up as soon as they’re encountered with armed resistance then why not just put armed resistance there WHERE THEY CAN SEE IT to begin with.

    The ‘Shoot me first’ argument only holds water if the guard is stationary 100% of the time. Any basic roving patrol is going to put the guard in an unknown location at the time of the shooting and eliminating the shoot me first scenario.

    The effectiveness of armed teachers in plain clothes only occurs AFTER the shooting has already started. Which is beside the point.

    To me, the Armed Guard is the same thing as The Club on a steering wheel. If the perp is DETERMINED to attack that target, then it’s going to take a lot more than will ever get passed to stop them from at least starting their attack.

    But if someone is just looking for an easy place to rack up a body count.. and they know that there are armed guards at the local school (BECAUSE THEY’VE SEEN THEM THERE…i.e..Uniformed Guards) then they’re going to look for a different target.

    And that’s all I really care about. At least if they shoot up a mall it will be against a higher percentage of adults who can (hopefully) fight back vs a population of almost 100% children.

    Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for arming plain clothed teachers. To respond after the shooting starts. But I’d rather turn the shooter away from my kids school before he even gets there.

  15. Let’s have both. Openly armed guards and concealed-carry guards.

    Teachers as well as extra “janitors” running around.

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