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Curbing gun violence after Newtown: Let's arm teachers

Critics worry that arming teachers will create 'fortress' schools and invite gun accidents. But a well-thought-out program can avoid these pitfalls, and take advantage of teachers and staff who are eager to act as trained protectors for our children.

By Michael Brown / February 4, 2013

President Obama walks from the White House to board Marine One Feb. 4 for departure to Minnesota, where he will talk about gun control. Op-ed contributor and pistol instructor Michael Brown writes: 'There are many good instructors who can turn a non-shooter into a competent defender in about 40 hours.'

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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Vancouver, Wash.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook school attack in Newtown, Conn., President Obama is taking his gun control ideas on the road, and politicians, school administrators, and parents across the country are reviewing school safety. Many are discussing how to better protect schoolhouse doors and update safety drills, whether to add armed guards as the National Rifle Association proposes, and even whether to arm teachers.

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That last idea is not as far-fetched as it may sound to some people. America's banks, courts, top elected officials, and super celebrities are protected by armed guards. Armed pilots and air marshals protect us in the skies. So why not armed teachers protecting our children?

State lawmakers in Arizona, California, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Tennessee have introduced or plan to propose legislation that would allow teachers and/or other school employees to have guns at school. Utah already allows concealed weapons at schools and at least 200 teachers have volunteered for firearms training since the Newtown massacre left 20 children and six adult women dead  at the school in December.

Critics worry about schools becoming fortresses, about accidental shootings, and liability issues. The consulting firm, National School Safety and Security Services, advises against arming teachers, though not against armed guards. But a well-thought-out program can avoid most of these pitfalls, and take advantage of teachers and staff who are eager to act as trained protectors for our children.

I'm a mild mannered eye doctor who comes from a family of teachers. Many years ago, I discovered the joy of competitive, combat-style, pistol shooting and went on to become certified as a pistol instructor. The first thing to understand about arming teachers is that learning to shoot is not rocket science. Modern firearms are designed to be easily used defensively by ordinary human beings under stress. Millions of new pistol shooters have been amazed that with proper instruction they can shoot pretty well. Carbines, like the AR-15s used by police officers, are even easier.

There is no practical reason that a sufficient number of teachers can't be trained to defend the children they care about. Those who don't have the right mindset simply won't volunteer, but those who do volunteer will be highly motivated.

A large firearms training industry has developed in the last two decades as the number of concealed carry licenses has exploded. There are many good instructors who can turn a non-shooter into a competent defender in about 40 hours.

People who get their gun knowledge from Hollywood will tell you that shooting someone intent on killing during the frenzy of a school attack is impossible. I don't buy that. If a madman comes into your workplace and starts shooting, I think you will know exactly what to do, just like the many merchants who defend themselves against armed robbers virtually every day and the moms who defend their kids from home invaders.

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