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Opinion | Defending the classroom

inside of the kindergarten classroom with drawings on the walls

By Deborah Love and Shanna Chamblee
Executive Director, Eagle Forum, and Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs, Alabama Gun Rights Inc.

The events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have left students, parents and an entire nation in agony.  Since the Columbine massacre, our nation has been horribly awakened to a new normal – a world in which these massacres are not all that irregular.  Each time one occurs, people are motivated to offer idyllic solutions so that such an incident may not happen again.

The truth of the matter is that there cannot be an all-encompassing solution to end all murder.  We instinctively know this, but the carnage sometimes shocks us into considering reactionary alternatives, that in reality would not stop a motivated killer.  Worst of all, these killers appear to be learning from the past, gaining tactical knowledge from each incident that occurs.  That is indicated by the fact that “gun free zones” (gun prohibited areas) have been the target of more than 98 percent of all mass shootings according to the Crime Prevention Research Center.  We see this effect in terrorist attacks as well, where large trucks have supplanted firearms as the weapon of choice in Europe.   As the criminals learn, we must learn as well, that a motivated killer will kill. Sometimes, despite innumerable red flags, a criminal intent to harm will slip through.  It happened in this case, and will continue in the future. Our schools need a better first-line of defense.

We know that law enforcement agencies at the Federal and State level in Florida failed to properly respond and prevent this attack on the school even though the individual was reported multiple times to authorities. One school resource officer and three sheriff’s deputies, who possessed guns, allegedly cowered outside the building while students and staff were left to face a monster, defenseless.  Law enforcement officers arrive on the scene after the fact, often too late. The most logically effective thing we could do remains untried in many schools. In most gun free zones where mass shootings or attacks take place response time is critical. Seconds count in such a situation.  Even with a school resource officer on site in Florida, the killer had at least 4 minutes alone among unarmed students and staff.

Several teachers in Florida were forced to give their lives bravely and heroically to physically shield the children with their bodies from the attacker.  They didn’t have arms, but they did have a heroic fortitude.  This brings to question: what if teachers could elect, after suitable training, to carry on school campuses?

Representative Will Ainsworth and 31 co-sponsors have filed the solution: HB435. If this legislation passes into law our teachers in Alabama will have the choice to obtain proper training and yearly qualification to be able to carry at school for the purpose of defense. The bill requires each teacher who wishes to carry to obtain a pistol permit, to have 40 hours of training that is specific to hostile/active shooter situations/crisis management by the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission, and an assurance that they are mentally sound. What more could we ask for? It has been said that we need more officers in schools. Who better than the dedicated men and woman of whom we trust the lives our children each day? Rather than shield bullets with their bodies, we can give them the option to fight back. This in effect will put more officers in our schools.

Some people have wrongly criticized HB435 by arguing it puts more pressure on the teacher’s shoulders to protect our children. Such a bill does not contemplate that all teachers will carry, and HB435 does not require any teacher to carry.  It certainly does not depend on making a docile, elderly English teacher into Bruce Willis.  Instead, the proposal relies on the numerical likelihood that in a school with a few dozen teachers, there will be a handful with the skills and dependability necessary to mitigate the danger of a school shooter.  A handful would be enough to, at a minimum, slow such a killer down, and perhaps allow students to escape, until law enforcement could arrive.

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Ultimately whatever security measures, it is the fault of the killer for taking innocent human life and attacking the school. But the question from a school safety standpoint is what can we do to increase survivor rates?  Today our nation has more gun laws than ever before in American history; yet we still have gun violence. Gun free zones may have been implemented in good faith, but at this point they are giving a massive tactical advantage to killers who will not be swayed either by prohibitions on their acquisition of arms or use of them on school grounds.  We must allow teachers who are trained to elect to exercise their Second Amendment right to defend themselves and our children.  Similar legislation to HB435 has worked successfully in many other states.  Currently eighteen other states allow teachers to carry on school ground to promote school safety. Many other states have also filed similar legislation this year such as South Carolina.  President Trump as well as policy leaders have shared their support for allowing trained teachers to carry.

It is natural to want to do everything possible to prevent such horrific attacks as the one in Florida, but any suggestion must be subjected to sober scrutiny.   Both the Sutherland Springs and Florida shootings happened when a person slipped through the cracks.  Gun free zones in schools allow these people an uncontested chance to do harm before they can be confronted by someone who has a chance at stopping the assailant.  Gun free zones act as a welcome mat for attackers. We must remember that there will always be some individuals desiring to do evil through acts of violence regardless of the current cultural or political dynamics in our nation.  Sometimes, these people will succeed, but passing HB435 is the most direct and effective way to improve the safety of our schools.


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