The Major popped into my classroom the other day, with his Gary-Busy smirk on his face, to tell me that the State of Indiana was working on a bill, which would require an armed school employee in each school.
My immediate response was skepticism… I’ve seen the Major’s smirk before… but, after looking the issue up on the Internet, my incredulity quickly evolved into sheer and absolute panic!
In my mind’s eye, I pictured certain members of my school’s faculty with six-guns strapped to their hips!
I knew that under current Indiana law, unless one is a law-enforcement officer, bringing a weapon onto school property without the explicit authorization of the school district is a felony. The only exception is that anyone with a state carry permit can be armed while in the process of picking up or dropping off.
However, this putative bill in the Indiana legislature would require a person designated as the school protection officer—whether a police officer or school employee—to carry a loaded weapon and be at the school at all times during regular school hours. The protection officers would have to meet training standards set by a new statewide school safety board.
According to the news reports, leaders of the Indiana School Boards Association and the Indiana State Teachers Association said they didn’t believe the proposal was well thought out.
To quote one of my favorite teenager expressions, “DUH!”
I have a concealed carry permit. But, I’m retired military and an ex-Federal officer. I have been thoroughly trained in weapons safety, operations and tactical deployment. And, I never carry at school.
As I mention in my first book, A Grunt Speaks, a key issue of the “tactical employment” of weapons in the military is what’s called the “Rules of Engagement.” Essentially, these are rules that define the circumstances, conditions, degree, and manner in which deadly force may be applied. And, the discharge of any weapon is “deadly force.”
In combat, the basic ROE is that a soldier is authorized to use deadly force when
1. Someone is firing at the soldier.
2. The target is identifiable as an enemy combatant—uniforms, equipment, activity, etc.
3. Deadly force is required to preserve the lives of US personnel, allied personnel or civilians.
In general, deadly force cannot be directed into or near civilian areas unless such fire is mission essential.
In the early 1980’s, I served with a unit whose mission was to provide counter-terrorist assistance to federal agencies and civilian police agencies when authorized. Specifically, we deployed sniper teams and assault teams operating under the SWAT concept.
Despite being a qualified infantry officer with combat experience, before being qualified to operate in this role, I was required to complete a special course in Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT), four weeks training in SWAT operations, a one week sniper school, and complete a basic civilian law-enforcement officer training course.
In this unit, we spent most of our time training and one of our recurrent tactical training exercises was the “Shooter in a School” scenario. The reason why we repeatedly practiced this scenario is that it’s probably the most difficult challenge-tactically and emotionally-we could expect to face.
There’s a 180-degree difference between the combat goals of military combat and those of law-enforcement.
In the military, one neutralizes enemy resistance in accordance with the ROE to achieve the mission; one took prisoners only if it were possible and would not jeopardize the mission or the safety of the friendly forces. In law-enforcement operations, one is expected to take prisoners whenever possible, using deadly force only when absolutely necessary.
In other words, although casualty rates in military operations are typically greater, in civilian operations law-enforcement officers are made more vulnerable to the bad-guys by their ROE.
Another issue complicating combat in civilian environments is the presence of the civilians themselves. Even if one is authorized to use deadly force under the ROE, one must deploy it in such a way as to avoid any harm to civilians.
The presence of civilians at the point of contact is a distraction, emotionally and tactically. Tactically, civilians will try to flee the danger area and, in doing so, will both distract the attention of law-enforcement officers and, at times, get in the line of fire. Emotionally, the sight of injured civilians greatly affects the ability of officers to operate effectively and moderately. The site of injured children is emotionally crippling.
Despite all our training and drill, the “shooter in a school” scenario was an operation we never wanted to execute!
So, when the State of Indiana talks about arming school employees in order to prevent or to lessen the damage caused by a school shooter, I see greater potential for the opposite happening. An under-trained, emotionally ill-prepared individual, with the ability to deploy deadly force, in a chaotic and cathartic situation will most likely exacerbate a tragedy.
I fervently hope that legislators, not only those in Indiana but in any state contemplating such a law, will come to their senses and not legislate such a scenario. The likely outcome of this situation is one even the professionals do not want to contemplate.