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GUEST OPINION: Beyond fear, find remedy to school shootings

  • Eric Mueller, a high school art teacher, places wooden angels, one for each of the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in front of his home in the village of Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn., last week. (MICHAEL APPLETON / New York Times)

The recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., has prompted a national debate on how to protect our children at school. It is no surprise that out of fear people resort to extreme measures in hopes of preventing a similar tragedy at their schools. FDR once said, the only thing to fear is fear itself. We cannot let our fear overwhelm reason and lead to bad decisions.

After the shooting, I had a discussion with my students about what could be done to prevent further school shootings. Several students suggested that I be allowed to have a gun at school. The reasoning was that I am a military veteran with combat experience. While I appreciated the vote of confidence in my abilities, let me leverage that experience to explain why it is a bad idea to arm teachers, or even have armed guards as suggested by the NRA.

In almost every case, these shootings are over in a matter of minutes, seriously limiting the time anyone has to react. Any defender has to be at or close to where the shooter emerges to have a chance to stop it. Second, they have to have immediate access to their weapon. Third, they have to have the presence of mind to act tactically, so as not to get shot immediately themselves. Fourth, they have to be a good shot under the ultimate of stressful situations with a very high potential for friendly fire. Finally, bullets have a tendency to go through walls and in most gun battles there are far more bullets fired than actually hit their intended target.

To be effective under those circumstances requires a lot of constant training. Most police officers, with the exception of elite SWAT Teams, do not consistently train in the type of assault tactics needed to ensure a successful takedown of a school shooter. It is possible to find security guards with that level of training, but they will be very expensive. There are 26 schools in our district times $50,000 per security guard, which is probably extremely low for the level of training needed and you are looking at about $1.3 million a year.

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