As A Veteran And Teacher, I Think Arming Teachers Is A Really Bad Idea

As A Veteran And Teacher, I Think Arming Teachers Is A Really Bad Idea

Throughout the day, friends have sent me a plethora of articles surrounding the tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  One of those articles in particular caught my eye.

It was written by Matt Martin and entitled, "I’ve been shot in combat. And as a veteran, I’m telling you: allowing teachers to be armed is an asinine idea".

The article is excellent, and I recommend you read it.  One thing that Martin mentions in his article is the fact that even trained soldiers, in the heat of combat, freeze.

It happens.  Today, there were a flood of articles detailing that the armed guard  at Stoneman Douglas was outside and didn't actually go inside to confront the gunman.  As I said on Facebook,

"Why did the armed guard at Stoneman Douglas stay outside during the shooting? Because when you move past theoretical conjecture, armed conflicts are hella scary, and he wasn’t adequately prepared mentally, or emotionally to engage with a heavily armed assailant, with no possible idea as to what he was getting himself into. That’s the job of SWAT, not Officer Friendly...and now you want to hand that duty to teachers?" 

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This isn't some movie.  You don't know exactly how you'll react in a live fire situation.  Some things we do know however...

  1. Your body is flooded with adrenaline.  Sweet, intoxicating adrenaline.
  2. Your motor skills deteriorate. Your blood is actually pulled from your skin towards your muscles, in case you have to flee (fight or flight).  Your heart pumps 3-4 times it's normal rate. As a result, your hands actually have less blood going to them, your fingers become less dexterous.  It becomes harder to do simple things like pull your gun out of the holster, which for many would not actually be their initial reaction.
  3. Your body narrows your field of vision.  You literally get tunnel vision.  You assume, because you've never been there that you will be able to, under stress and in chaos, discern friend from foe.  The sad reality is that you quite possibly will not, and the first gun you see, whether it's carried by a fellow teacher, or a gunman, or a police officer, you will squeeze your trigger at.  We're also assuming you're an amazing shot, and don't miss and hit a student, or teacher.  And finally, what if the police come in, and assume you're one of the attackers with your firearm, and not a "protector".  That could surely end badly. Source: ABC NEWS

Experiments have been done testing the idea of an armed defender in a classroom shooting situation.  It rarely turns out well.

Now, let's keep in mind that the situation around you is chaotic.  Screams, things falling over, crying, and of course the loud sound of gunshots.  You won't have ear or eye protection, both of which you'll be used to having since they are used at virtually every gun range you will go to.  In addition, you don't know how many gunman there are, or where that gunman is exactly. And when you encounter someone, you will have a split second, much like a police officer (The City of Chicago has shelled out millions over the years for officers making bad calls in this regard), to determine whether that person is a threat or not.

Now, allow me to tell you a quick story to highlight all of these points, because as Matt mentions in his article, I was that guy that froze.

Well, I didn't freeze completely.  Allow me to explain.

I was a gunner, on a cordon and search mission.  About an hour before I'd seen an IED go off, injuring multiple people, and literally blowing one unfortunate Afghan soldier limb from limb.  Yes, I saw the explosion, as well as the aftermath.

As we were heading back to base, we endured another IED attack, followed by small arms and RPG fire.

It was at this moment that it all kicked in for me.  Everything seemed to move in slow motion.  Every reaction I had felt like it was delayed...my mind was simply having trouble processing information.  In retrospect, I can recall my mind attempting to make connections to make sense of what was going on around me, but it was strange. A truck blown 20 feet in the air by an IED explosion didn't compute in my mind.  I saw the bright orange glare and said "There's a fire behind us. I don't know what it is."  Like puzzle pieces, my mind had to "reconstruct" the scene for me to say "Holy shit, that's a truck.  We're under attack"

Shortly after the beginning of the attack, we exited the kill zone, turned our vehicle around, and I was informed I could return fire.

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I charged my MK 19 grenade launcher, pushed the trigger and...

...nothing happened.  I charged again.  A round fell out the bottom...this went on for what seemed eternity.  I couldn't figure out what was wrong, but now, my mind was fixated.

FIX YOUR FUCKING WEAPON!!!

I boosted myself further out of the hatch, to better figure out what was going on.  Can you imagine?  I actually exposed myself more during an attack.  To my credit, I was informing my team verbally that my weapon was fucked and I was determined to fix it before anyone dies, when the truck commander, like the voice of God said to me, "Just use your reserve."

That's right!  I had a secondary, in this brand new cradle that had been installed, a M249 light machine gun.

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I pulled a latch, and it swung down to me perfectly.  I was ready to rock and roll.

Just as I began to return fire, I heard 3 loud booms.

What the fuck was that??? I yelled into my headset.

My truck commander, obviously recognizing that I'd lost my shit, calmly said "That's the .50 cal returning fire...it's a good thing."

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In all this time, I hadn't realized that across the road from us, sitting in the parallel ditch, was one of the other vehicles.  Years later, in my self deprecation over this moment, it only then dawned on me that for all the time it took me to return fire, I still got started before my buddy over on the .50 cal.

We spent mere minutes returning fire before the insurgents either fell, or turned tail and ran.  I spent the next few hours a mix of hyped up like a fighter who'd just won a world championship, and in shock.

When we got back to the Afghan Police Station, I called my dear friend Carlene, the only person I could think to call, and I cried like a baby.

"I could've died." 

"Did I just kill people?" 

"What the fuck am I doing here?"

I went on to get used to it.  Over time, you become hungry for that shit.  I even volunteered for multiple foot patrols through town to visit an orphanage as a show of force.  A mix of machismo, daredevil, and adrenaline junky.

So let me tell you.  Civilians aren't ready for that kind of shit.  Most of them would not be willing to invest the time to even come close to becoming ready for that shit.

And while the NRA constantly wants to talk about "mental illness", they won't dare broach the topic of the mental effects of killing a person.  You think a teacher will easily be able to take down a current or former student, and be back in class on Monday teaching quadratic formulas?

What dream are you living in?  As a trained soldier, I assure you, it's not that easy.

Due to the length of this post, allow me to simply offer one last side note:

All of West Virginia's public schools are closed due to a teacher walk-out over pay

The same teachers that so many people want to deputize and make armed guardians of our schools...aren't even receiving, in their eyes, the adequate pay due them for the "simple" job of teacher that they're already doing.

Who will pay for guns?  Who will pay for training?  And when will the training be done?  We do enough as teachers. I can assure you I will not give you my weekend for firearms training, so you will be taking teachers out of the classroom, for a sizable amount of time throughout the year (training to defend lives with a hot Glock is a year-round endeavor).

This isn't a partisan issue. This is a simply an "unthought-through idea" issue.  It's a bad plan.  A really bad plan.

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