Cheney Free Press -

By MARY H BASE GILLES
Contributor 

With proper training and equipment, guns can be an asset in schools

Guest Commentary

 


In “Firearms and schools are a bad combination,” published in the Dec. 29, 2016 issue of the Cheney Free Press the question was “Should teachers be allowed to have weapons on school property?” And while it was a policy just being “looked at” by Idaho’s Mountain View School District, it is a question every school district should be asking. According to the Free Press editorial, “If the policy passes, staff members who choose to bring a weapon to campus must conceal it or lock it up.”

Why on earth would teachers bother bringing a weapon to school if only to lock it up? If the point is to stop shooters the likes of which murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, a locked up weapon would be useless. And the only place a weapon could be affectively “concealed” would be on the person of a responsible, full-time teacher, one who is fully trained and qualified with his or her handgun. There are ex-military and ex-cops who have gone into teaching who could make this viable.

In fact, why would a firearms trained and qualified teacher have any need to conceal the weapon? Why should the identities of these school protectors not be common knowledge? As a bad guy looking for a “soft target” would a shooter not be more likely to select the soft target where no armed protectors exist on premises? He’s only deranged, not stupid; shooters who go to a school to open fire, are not expecting anyone to fire back.

Yes, guns have always been a part of our culture, and “people used to settle conflicts with words – and sometimes firsts – instead of firearms.” Unfortunately, that’s no longer true. Neither words nor fists stop bullets.

The editorial states that “there’s no training that can really prepare someone in a situation where live fire is happening around them.” Police officers do not train with live rounds flying around their heads, but they are expected to respond anyway, and use sound judgment while doing it.

So how are officers trained when to shoot or not shoot? That is also part of the training that could be incorporated. Years ago, Spokane police used a training video called “Shoot. Don’t Shoot.”

For example, in a darkened room, the officer wearing a special, electronic sidearm, stood by nervously as the real-life training scenarios prompted the trainee to react to a person pulling an item from his pocket and turning to face the officer.

If the item was a gun, then you aimed and pulled your trigger which then electronically showed you where your bullet hit. When the item was a wallet, you held your fire. In this way each officer was challenged to demonstrate good judgment as to when to draw and fire his weapon.

This was excellent training, and fun! It could be done per person in a matter of minutes, but the resulting lessons were enduring. By now this training is probably even more sophisticated. Why can’t our pistol packing pedagogues be trained in a like manner?

The editorial stated that “If a staff member carries their weapon, a student could take it by overpowering them.” This may only be a possibility in the last couple of grades in high school when students are most likely to be big or strong enough to accomplish such a feat.

In fact, this would be an ideal time to segue to the notion of teaching students to fight back against a gunman as they have in Burleson, Texas. But that is an entirely separate – if intriguing – subject for another time.

Beyond the size of most students being prohibitive, police officers learn carefully choreographed weapon retention techniques. Why couldn’t this be a part of the school protectors’ training as well? Each police department, including Cheney’s, has an in-house firearms instructor and/or defensive tactics instructor. Could they maybe implement such training for school protectors? Also, sidearm holsters and being specially designed so no one but the “officer” can pull the weapon from the holster.

Cheney police have the advantage of having about a 3-4 minute response time to anywhere in the city. This is great, but a shooter wielding a weapon is capable of mowing down a lot of people in three minutes. If a shooter appears in the doorway of any West Plains school classroom, are we willing to play the odds?

Mary H. Base (Gilles) owned and operated West Plains Karate in Cheney, specializing in self-defense for women and children, from 1998-2013. She has 21 years in law enforcement, including 15 years in Cheney, five years as DARE instructor at Cheney High school and three years teaching at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane.

 

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