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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions April 17, 2015

2/6/2014 6:00:00 AM
Column: Armed teachers would be 'defenders'
Richard F. (Buz) Williams
Courier Columnist

I was going to write on a different subject until I read a couple of articles in The Daily Courier on Tuesday, Jan. 28. A proposed law in Arizona (House Bill 2412), would allow school districts to authorize teachers, after completing a 24-hour training course, to carry concealed weapons in schools. Most Democrats are opposed to this bill. What I found astounding was the opposition and the comments of local school administrators.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats' solution to the very real question of school security is to throw money at the problem. Associated Press's Bob Christie reported that, "Democrats are opposed to arming teachers or other school employees." They want the state Legislature to find money for school resource officers for schools. If they don't come up with this funding, according to Democratic House minority leader Chad Campbell, the Republican majority is not making "school safety a priority."

The superintendents and a school principal, who were interviewed by the Courier, all seemed to agree that school resource officers were the best answer to the school safety question. Apparently, these educators and Rep. Campbell, are unaware that there was a school resource officer at Columbine High School and he even exchanged shots with Eric Harris, one of the shooters.

According to the Courier article, Prescott has one school resource officer operating in its schools and Prescott Valley also has one in its jurisdiction. With all of the elementary, middle and high schools in the quad-city area, it would be cost prohibitive for each of these school districts to have an officer at each of these institutions. This is why they want the state to pay for them.

If every school had its own school resource officer, it still would be no panacea, as Columbine proved. It would leave the rest of these jurisdictions outside of the schools woefully undermanned with any remaining law enforcement officers. In addition, it is not the best and most efficient answer to protecting school children from situations like Columbine and Sandy Hook.

Teachers who volunteer, are trained, and who qualify periodically with firearms, would be a much better solution. A would-be mass murderer could target a school resource officer before starting his child-killing spree. If some of the teachers were armed, this same murderer would not know who was armed or where they were in the school. It would be a lot less expensive to arm and train two, three or more volunteer teachers on each campus, than to man each school with a resource officer.

I'll admit to being a little disappointed in the opinions expressed by our local school administrators. In Columbine, Sandy Hook and other schools, unarmed teachers have heroically sacrificed their safety and their lives for their students. Wouldn't it be better if those heroes had been armed and had a fighting chance to save their children and themselves? Yet, if one reads some of the quotes from these administrators, one would think that our teachers would fall apart if their routine was interrupted by a fire drill. One would think that these teachers lack the diverse experience, intellect and emotional stability to be trained in anything outside of teaching.

Chino Valley School Superintendent Duane Howard is quoted, "In my opinion, it's just not in our personalities... I don't see how we can just turn that switch and become an aggressor toward another human being. That is just not our calling in life."

What? Turn a switch and become an aggressor? Wouldn't "defender" be a much more appropriate word? Mr. Howard may be a good superintendent and a great guy to work for, but you couldn't prove it by that statement. Do teachers' personalities preclude them from basic human instincts, such as self-preservation and the protection of children? Are they incapable of being trained with firearms to protect themselves and others?

From his statement, it sounds like Mr. Howard doesn't trust his teachers. Surely there are teachers in Chino Valley who have military or law enforcement experience. There must be employees of that school district who hunt or target shoot. If the school districts couldn't get teachers to volunteer to take the firearms course, it would be one thing. Has anyone even asked the teachers?

Mr. Howard is not alone in his opinion. Similar sentiments were expressed by Prescott Superintendent Dave Smucker, Granite Mountain Middle School Principal Rachel Saunders and Humboldt Superintendent Paul Stanton. Maybe it is the academic culture that causes this sort of group-think. Maybe it's just the education management that depends on state money. Whatever it is, it shows a disdain for any solution other than school resource officers and a distrust of the diverse experience and capabilities of the teachers who work for them.

The arming of volunteer, trained and firearm qualified teachers is a much better and fiscally reasonable answer to the safety of our school children. Like the Cable One Lady says in their commercials, "It's just common sense."

Related Stories:
• Letter: Armed teachers more dangerous than helpful

Related Links:
• Blog: Arming Arizona's teachers seems like a terrible idea. (PVtrib.com)

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2014
Article comment by: wouldn't it make sense

wouldn't it make sense to hire ex cops or other retired law enforcement professionals as teachers to protect the Schools as armed professionals. the thought of hiring a school resource officer for each school to sit on his butte in case he is needed doesn't make much sense. Besides retired cops are collecting their pensions can probably survive on a teachers salary and have real world experience invaluable to teaching.
Demeaning teachers as incapable of protecting themselves or their students and being afraid of guns is an insult to the profession.

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2014
Article comment by: Morgan James Besenhaver

I'm not afraid of guns. I'm afraid of people who hate guns and are too stupid to defend their own life.

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2014
Article comment by: You want to help the schools !

I work with two very experienced hunters and gun enthusiasts in the schools. Neither one is an advocate for guns in the buildings. Those commenting here are just ignorant.

You want to help the schools then pass legislation to track the nut cases. Do. The work up front. Putting armed teachers in a fish barrel is not the answer.

Schools are attacked by nut cases who know the buildings and players.

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2014
Article comment by: Mike Bates

I dare say you're right, Elizabeth. Many of the teachers I've known would take the bullet.

But there is a world of difference between teachers electing to do it out of decency and the state forcing them to do it because voters can't be bothered to spend the money to make our schools, or our society for that matter, safe from guns. As I said, we can't seem to find the money to pay teachers enough to instruct our children, something they do out conviction anyway. What make you think we have the right to tell teachers they have the obligation to confront a criminal holding the gun our society placed in his or her hands.

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2014
Article comment by: Nice dodge, Buz

Buz: Advocating concealed carry permits is very different from advocating that teachers (with a mere 24-h training) perform law enforcement duties at school rather than professionals. Did you advocate citizens do the jobs of cops? That is the equivalent situation.

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2014
Article comment by: J T

It amazes me how teachers are portrayed here as either incapable of protecting themselves and possibly others, or just too stupid to be trusted with a gun.
Many of these same teachers are at the range with us on the weekends. Many are avid hunters, and others retired military or law enforcement. Many stand with us in the same checkout line with---Oh My Gosh!---a concealed weapon!
For some reason, you trust that a teacher would shield his/her students with their own body even if it means losing their own life. But you don't trust a teacher with the means to defend their lives and the lives of others.
Absolutely mind boggling!

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2014
Article comment by: Jerry S

So Frank Aimes. That whole chicken or an egg first thingy amounts to a feeble attempt to defend failed logic and an extremely misguided analogy. I seriously doubt that a person who would point the gun at their own head and pull the trigger would be concerned whether the schoolmarm has a gun or not. Most, if not all, school shootings end just that way, with the shooter turning the gun on themselves. In that case the arming of school teachers would not prevent the attack from occurring and the fact that the school is a gun free zone doesn't cause the attack to occur.

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2014
Article comment by: Buz Williams

To: "not fine in Buz's backyard: In the 1990s, I was on the Board of the Long Beach Police Officers Association. I was editor of the "Rap Sheet", the publication for that organization. One of my editorials suggested that California was much too restrictive in issuing Concealed Carry permits and that if more trained citizens had guns, crime would go down. There were about 3000 active, retired and associates who received this magazine. There was only one negative response from a retired detective.

You should not offer your inexperienced opinion and infer that it was mine when I was still on duty.

Posted: Saturday, February 08, 2014
Article comment by: Elizabeth May

Many years ago when I still lived in Prescott Valley, a distraught student brought a shot gun to the cafeteria at Bradshaw Mountain High School. As memory serves... an English Teacher, unarmed, "possibly a Vietnam Veteran" confronted the distraught student and convinced him to surrender the gun.

In the Sandy Hook shooting Principal Dawn Hochsprung, and school psychologist March Sherlach, were killed after confronting the gunman.1st Grade teacher, Vicki Soto was shot while trying to use her body to shield her students. Sandy Hook Elementary janitor, Rick Thorne ran through the hallways after confronting the gunman, shouting, A gunman is coming! A gunman is coming! He checked to make sure the classroom doors were locked.

Six staffers and twenty students were killed. I have to believe that many of the staffers at Sandy Hook wished they had a gun as they hid in closets, placing themselves in many instances as human shields to protect their students.

@ Mike Bates I have no doubt that we have teachers teaching in our local schools, that absolutely would take a bullet for their students. They love our children whether we give them a raise or not... I don't have a problem with teachers having access to a firearm if it were needed to defend themselves or their students.

Posted: Saturday, February 08, 2014
Article comment by: Not fine in Buz's backyard

When Buz was a cop in CA he wouldn't have wanted civilians with only 24 hours worth of training out on the street performing police duties. But good old retired Buz now is fine with teachers strapping on weapons and performing law enforcement duties in our schools. Isn't that just dandy?

Posted: Saturday, February 08, 2014
Article comment by: bob grant

Try this a second time!
Having someone write a column who makes money off the subject matter is bad ethics from the paper! Buzz has a clear conflict of interest which should be stated at the Top of the Article.
Until guns are harder to get the folks who should not have them will keep killing.
Schools should not be targets it says more about the country as a whole ,its world view and general hypocricy when claiming to be a civilized nation.

Posted: Saturday, February 08, 2014
Article comment by: Frank Aimes

@Jerry S, what came first, the chicken or the egg?

Answer: who cares? They both exist and that is all there is too to.

You can not defend without defenders.

Posted: Saturday, February 08, 2014
Article comment by: Mike Bates

We deny teachers fair compensation to instruct our children, and now we want them to take a bullet for our children? Pay'em what they're worth, and maybe we can talk.

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2014
Article comment by: Jerry S

Whether you are for arming teachers or not, the argument that schools are chosen because they are gun free zones defies logic and is based on no credible evidence. Here's why.
Most, if not all the shooters involved, have some tie to the school, whether they be students, former students or in some type of relationship with someone who has ties to the school and with a grudge against either the school or someone in the school. That would exist whether the teachers were armed or not and since most were deemed to be mentally unstable , there is no evidence that arming the teachers would make them more mentally stable.
Further, the very fact that most turned the gun on themselves says they aren 't afraid of being killed by an armed person.
Gun free zones in schools are not the cause of shooters targeting them.

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2014
Article comment by: Frank Aimes

Armed defense against an armed attack will always hold the potential of degrees of success or failure. Success depends on the commitment of the defender to obtain an adequate level of training to be effective in neutralizing the threat while minimizing loss to innocent life.

If you have no defender you have no option to defend.

If you believe you have a defender it is incumbent on you to assure the abilities of him or her. If this commitment is made by a teacher one whomever, they should be recognized and certified as such. Compensation is not out of the question either.

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2014
Article comment by: I wouldn't call them defenders

Maybe teacher with a gun, but not defender or protector.

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2014
Article comment by: Interesting Arguments

It seems to me that schools being well known "gun free" zones only empowers the bad guy. Bad guys choose schools for a reason - soft, easy target that cowers and does not fight back.

The answer is to allow voluntary participation by teachers and staff in a very rigorous selection and training program in active defense techniques, both armed and not. Something much better than "lock the door and hide in the bathroom". Maybe a given school ends up with none, maybe they end up with five or more. Only they would know the specific details.

The point is, the bad guys would no longer know that schools are "defense free zones". Bad guys target schools for a reason Take away that reason.

Oh, and Bob Lynne: I get your point, but doesn't it make equal sense that people like Buz who have spent years working and training at defending society from bad guys might have relevant perspective on defending a school from bad guys? Yes, teachers have experience and training in their fields. So do cops. Let's share, let's talk. There is a solution but status quo ain't it.

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2014
Article comment by: Secure armed locker!! !!

IF you are going to secure it then might as well not have it. I'm not for guns in the schools because there is no up side.
1. Secure locker in the office? then teachers have to leave the class room run down a hall way or at least identified route to get the weapon. That leaves a class room of kids unattended. It sends an unarmed teacher into the frey. identifies a route to get to the weapon. IF I want to kill a people you just made it easy for me. Any place you put a "secure locker will be identified and the perps will know where it is.

1. The perps on schools have always been familiar with the school.
2. The perps are not stupid. At Columbine the assailants watched the TV so that they could figure out where the police were entering the building.

Again... There is no upside to this event. NONE!!!!

Protection of our most valued resource is noble. This will not do it.

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2014
Article comment by: Daniel Wood

HB2412 would require the firearms to be kept in a "secure firearm locker" at the school, accessible by the volunteer(s) who get the training.
That seems reasonable, but I would also support legislation that allows teachers and staff to carry concealed.

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2014
Article comment by: Daniel Wood

Buz, this is a good article.
I'm approx. 75% liberal and 25% conservative. I consider the pros and cons of each issue.
You are correct this time.

Teachers and staff should be allowed to volunteer for special permits allowing concealed carry in schools.

There should be no public access to the government database of these permits, otherwise school shooters could easily find out who to target first --their armed opposition.
That's one of the problems of police resource officers in schools --obvious targets--, besides the cost and besides the fact that one resource officer is probably not enough to quickly stop a school shooting in progress.

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2014
Article comment by: Theodora Gialamas-Weaver

Protecting the children outside of a building, I think, would require either police officers or armed security. Regarding entrance to the inside of the school building, why not have a metal detector as they do in court houses, etc. This would prevent any student from bringing a gun into the classroom.

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2014
Article comment by: @Frank Aimes

Congratulations! You are the first one who managed to bring a California reference into a discussion about arming teachers in Arizona! I'm going to attempt to enlighten you about something.. Are you ready? There are lots of republicans living in Prescott who used to live in California. Your generalizations are offensive and show your ignorance..

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2014
Article comment by: NRA Endangers Your Children

Arming teachers would be a horrific mistake for countless reasons. Even a fool can understand that.

Posted: Thursday, February 06, 2014
Article comment by: Frank Cuccia

@ Aimes

Frank, Frank, Frank...

About two weeks ago I was pegged as a lifelong union worker, now I am a Calf attorney. Too Funny!!

Nope. I am from Cleveland, Ohio with an Italian Heritage. 12 yrs in Catholic schools, 4 at OSU and 3 at Cleaveland-Marshall.

My last jobs were an 8th grade math teacher, substitute teacher, substitute school security, & football, baseball & basketball coach.

Scenario 1: Now, let's say a student or 10 get shot accidentally in a school by a gun owned by a teacher. We all know that accident DO happen.
--- What will the parents of those dead kids do next? Talk about having your head in the sand.

Scenario 2: Let's say a school is attacked and a teacher with a GUN freezes & children die. What are those parents going to do?

You want to put Police officers (Real) into schools - that makes sense. But handing the defense over of our children over to wanna bees, rent-a-cops or worse English, Art, Reading, Special Needs, VPs, social studies . . . Teachers. I DON'T THINK SO.


Frank Cuccia

If you think like Frank Aimes Vote republican. If you don't then don't vote republican. The choices are clear.

Posted: Thursday, February 06, 2014
Article comment by: get real...

Buz, I take offense to your characterization of the local superintendents and principals. All of these men and women are working tirelessly, with the resources they have, to create safe campuses for the children of our communities. As a cop, didn't you gain an understanding, and quite honestly, an appreciation of their efforts and expertise? What did you do, push paper?

The educational leaders in the surrounding communities have been continuously reaching out and working in collaboration with the different law enforcement agencies in the county to develop detailed emergency response action plans. To diminish their efforts by labeling them as weak-kneed or moochers for your own ideological argument is blatant disrespect. In fact, I believe the DC would be wise to drop your writing and invest in writers who love this community and want to build it up, versus tearing it down.

You, and apparently the republicans you surround yourself with, have no idea of the pandora's box that would be unleashed on our schools if guns were allowed to flow in and out. You, and your cadre fail to grasp that it would actually increase school shootings as students throughly pissed off or scared of their gun toting teacher decides to carry a "concealed" weapon to "protect" him or herself...

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