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Arming Alabama’s Teachers; Some Practical Thoughts for the Debate

By Senator Bill Holtzclaw

As we begin the debates on arming teachers we need to ensure we have clear, obtainable goals. We should ask, does allowing teachers to carry a weapon serve as another line of defense, preventing another school massacre, or is it simply a deterrent for the deranged (assuming a mentally deranged person considers someone may shoot back in the school they plan to shoot up)?

As the debate begins, and as a passionate supporter of the 2nd Amendment and concealed to carry laws, I’ve decided to share some thoughts. But first, to set the stage, we need to look at some important data points.  The district I represent as a Senator encompasses 43 schools (K-12) across two counties, touching 5 school districts. This includes 5 school boards, 5 superintendents, 43 principals and countless teachers, administrators and support staff. To date, I have not received a single request to carry a weapon in a school.

Second, I can share some insight on weapons training as a retired Marine who served as a Primary Marksmanship Instructor. I trained Marines qualifying with their service weapon, the M-16 rifle (the civilian version is an AR-15) and the 9mm or .45 caliber pistol.

Now that we’ve laid some ground work I’ll state that I’m doubtful we should arm teachers in Alabama. We must differentiate between the casual conceal to carry – armed for self defense against a mugging, and an active shooter intent on a massacre. We must recognize the difference between a teacher carrying a concealed weapon and the training required to engage an active shooter.

Some topics we need to consider in the debate: the rules of engagement – also known as the use of deadly force. Does the teacher draw to show, or draw to shoot? Shoot to kill, or disable? Are teachers granted immunity with regards to collateral damage, friendly fire…you know, shooting a child?

Now let’s consider training scenarios. We must include high stress training environments that go along with rapid decision making; is the shooter active or threatening, on the move or holed up with hostages? We must add the fog of war in our training – loud noises, confusion, gun flashes, confined spaces, people being shot, people running into the line of fire; you get the point. We should also include draw techniques from our concealed carry position. This will vary widely based on how the weapon is being carried, how crowded the room is, and where the shooter is encountered. Simply put, our teachers must train, train, train in realistic environments.

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We should also consider the type/size/caliber of the weapon and ammunition type teachers will carry. This is important when considering the tradeoff between collateral damage and stopping power, important as recent shooters have reportedly worn protective body armor.

Then there is the most important skill set – being an effective shooter – putting steel on target.  This can only be acquired over time through regular trips to the firing range.  When training Marines I shot several weapons in a single day and hundreds of rounds of ammunition a week – it was my primary job. Today, I’m good, but I’m not nearly as good as I once was. My point, it takes time and dedication to acquire and maintain this skill level. Should we expect teachers to maintain this skill level when armed in a school with our children?

Yes, as we begin the debates on arming teachers we need to ensure we have clear, obtainable goals in mind; balanced goals that ease our concerns rather than create more concerns.

Bill Holtzclaw is the Senator for the Alabama 2nd District representing Limestone and Madison Counties in North Alabama.

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