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Give educators the ability to protect students

Posted: January 9, 2013 - 1:14am

One of the revelations that surfaced from the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was that the deranged gunman, Adam Lanza, carried hundreds of rounds of ammunition, enough to kill all 450 children in the school.

What stopped him? Apparently he decided to kill himself when he heard police sirens and knew the officers were nearing the scene and their guns would soon confront his. They say it takes a gun to stop a gun. Besides suggesting a possible solution of having a recording of sirens approaching on some external sound system to frighten away those committing crimes on school grounds, why not give teachers and others assigned care of the children the right to protect their students?

Just one gun somewhere on the premise could have been enough. Lanza had 10 minutes of unrestrained killing time before police arrived after 911 notification and before he took his life, ending the massacre. If but one armed concealed weapons permit holder had been nearby, he or she could have saved perhaps eight minutes of indiscriminate slaughter. How many lives is that?

This is not to suggest that every teacher must participate, only those who wish to. Hundreds of regular citizens in my county already carry concealed weapons everywhere except in gun free zones. Such is the same in most counties throughout the nation. Law enforcement normally see them as an asset, the ultimate backup should they need extra help, and also because cops know they can’t be everywhere at the same time, as Sandy Hook demonstrated. Why not let them do so on school grounds as well allowing them to be an asset of protection wherever they are?

It would cost the school nothing. Chances are every school already has two or three concealed weapons permit holders among its faculty and staff. Why not let those who wish to protect their students do so?

Permit holders are among our finest citizens. Obtaining a concealed weapons permit requires a thorough investigation, a near perfect record from law enforcement, a stated need to carry, and some training. Normally they are older, more mature folks and, in the case of teachers, we already trust our children with them. They are already on the scene where a policeman could not possibly be. What a deterrent to a would-be killer if he knew schools are no longer entirely gun free.

Gun free zones clearly do not work. They certainly do not keep killers away. Most massacres in the United States happen in gun-free zones. Anticipating no resistance, they entice killers rather than deterring them, giving them access to large groups of unprotected victims – often children.

Presently the only hope of a teacher, wishing to protect his or her students, is to hide them. At Sandy Hook that helped a few.

In my classroom, as in most, there is but one door. Everyone inside, including me, has been set up by his own government to be a victim. In my classroom the door cannot be locked from inside should I hear gunfire outside. There is a small back room (often kept locked by the school because it houses sensitive computer wiring connections) where students nearby could hide if they had access and time.

Hopefully a potential gunman would then think no one was inside and move on to another classroom. Since Sandy Hook happened, I ask students sitting on the door side of the room, upon hearing gunfire from outside the room, to lineup next to the wall, remove the fire extinguisher from the wall next to a door that opens outwardly, and spray or hit the intruder as he enters. Those behind him can then overwhelm the intruder after the distraction, but this is all that I can do, and it is not enough. Because my students are adults, this might work. Better yet, a teacher or student with a concealed weapons permit need only pull out a weapon from pocket or purse and fire a couple of rounds at a very surprised, then very dead, killer.

Elected officials, please give students and teachers a fighting chance to survive. Teachers have done nothing that should justify disarming us, or fearing us, and thus leaving us with virtually no hope of survival. You might answer, “We can’t just let anyone have a weapon of mass destruction!” You already do! Anyone, 16 and older can have access to an automobile, which is decidedly a weapon of mass destruction – even if he might commit crimes with it.

This brings us back to the lessons of Sandy Hook. Adam Lanza did his deed in a location that he knew was gun free and ceased his rampage of killing only because someone else, in this case the police, would soon be firing at him. Next time, let that person be a teacher with a concealed weapon whose action would allow so many more students to live.

(Harold Pease teaches history and political science at Taft College in Taft, Calif.)

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