There has been a lot of press recently about the president’s proposal to end school shootings by allowing some of America’s teachers to carry concealed weapons and train them to “immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.”
It is a proposal that most gun violence experts, educators and school safety advocates have condemned and has been compared to giving airplane passengers guns to prevent airline hijacking.
Other people think it would be a great solution to keep schools safe and protected from potential shooters.
But what most people might not remember is in 2013 Gov. Dennis Daugaard made South Dakota the first state in the nation to enact a law explicitly authorizing school employees to carry guns on the job. This came after the Connecticut shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that took the life of 20 first grade students.
“South Dakota has a statute that allows teachers who have training to carry in school, but in our district, that would have to be a board decision. The last time I saw data, there was only one school out of the 170 districts that was allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons,” said Custer School District Superintendent, Mark Naugle.
The school he is referring to is the Tri-Valley School District in Colton that had one applicant take the required training and be approved in 2016.
The district adopted the program because of concern that it would take too long for authorities to reach the campus in such a rural area if there was an active shooter situation.
The law requires an individual to successfully complete an 80-hour training designed by the same commission that sets training standards for law enforcement officers which entails firearm proficiency, first aid, use of force and weapon retention and storage. It is also up to the school district where they would like to take advantage of the law.
But experts have said that even with proper firearm training, it is still unrealistic to expect a teacher to be able to shoot down an attacker without injuring anyone else in the process.
“To be trained is not just about shooting. Your heart is beating like crazy, your adrenaline is all over your body and you have to make a wise decision about what to do,” said Dr. David Hemenway, a professor of health policy at Harvard School of Public Health.
School board president and former Custer mayor Jared Carson said he thinks it is a circumstance-based decision and not a one-size -fits all solution.
“I’ve got some experience in security, both civilian and military, and a number of different levels of security. There is passive and active descent with passive being things like architecture and active being something like a guard or someone armed and trained to restrict access and patrol,” Carson said. “Now, there is an element of passive descent in having the knowledge of an armed person on site; it’s why cops patrol around neighborhoods and that sort of deal. If bad guys know good guys are around they are less likely to target that area, but passive is much less expensive and it’s a lot easier to implement.”
Carson believes active descent should be the last measure taken by a school and things that Custer has currently should be the first step, such as internal control lock access doors and better policies.
“As president, before I would ever approve arming our teachers, I would want all the other, more efficient measures put into place where we recognize, utilize and make sure we review all our policies and our training and teaching our teachers, students and parents on how to deal with issues with people around us. I think it should extend far beyond our school — they should be talked about within our community at large because, frankly, kids aren’t the only ones who are going to do this stuff. Adults have issues just as much or more than kids, so while I am an avid Second Amendment supporter and someone who has experience with guns, my experience tells me there are better, cheaper and more effective ways to secure our environment before we go that route. And I do believe the only way to balance a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, but we need to be doing the other stuff first and have a community outreach program so that we are on the same lines,” Carson said.
One of the ways we as a community can start this is by understanding the psychology behind anger, depression or someone acting out. We should take comments people make seriously and maybe be the one to reach out to someone who is struggling instead of thinking it is someone else’s problem.
“We have to start taking these things seriously and recognizing that the world has never been and will never be a safe place and we need to stop pretending that it is. At the very least we should keep an eye on people who are making these threats or acting out. When people make threats toward a society, maybe they aren’t full of BS — we’ve gotten to a point where we are super cynical and that needs to back up,” Carson said. “The problem I see with politics across the board, when something is wrong or perceived to be wrong, everybody’s initial reaction is, ‘Oh we need to do something.’ But do we need to do something new or use the tools we already have in our toolbox? Let’s take a look at what we already have and train people with those tools first.”