What does happen when a friendly fire incident occurs and an innocent student or fell staff member is injured or killed by a Gun Carrying Staff Member (GCSM)? Let’s face it, NYC released it’s Police Accuracy Report and showed they only hit their targets 18% of the time, including in high stress situations. Other departments that released their numbers were lower, and the numbers are not that much improved when looking at SWAT versus general patrol incidents. Furthermore, similar audits demonstrate between 5-15% of discharge situations result in a friendly fire injury including hitting other officers as well as civilian bystanders, while another 1-3% result in accidental death. Furthermore, studies such as S.L.A. Marshall, tend to also lean toward low intended target success rates for weapons discharge even at the military level although the DOD doesn’t release it’s own findings. GCSM are going to be give zero to 300 hours of training depending on the proposal and won’t have the same level of training or situational control that a uniformed officer would have. Imagine what the potential is for GCSM to create a friendly fire hazard based on law enforcement’s effectiveness.
What happens when the GCSM uses the weapon in a non-active shooter situation? Already in systems like the NYC DOE there are armed guards and other officers on duty and they routinely use excessive force in order to deal with otherwise routine incidents with students according to the DOE’s own reviews. These use of force incidents include such extreme acts as drawing of a sidearm, use of a tazer and use of takedown holds including illegal neck holds. If these trained personelle are misidentifying use of force situations and resorting to extreme measures early and often what is the chance a GCFM who doesn’t have the same level of training is going to make more mistakes? What happens when it’s in a jursidiction that allows for corporal punishment, which is still allowed 19 states, and not one that bans it and actively works against in-school use of force actions like the NYCDOE
What happens when the GCSM mis-identifies the active shooter and targets the wrong person? — Another study looking at incidents of discharge showed that upwards of 60% of the time first responders fired at the wrong person, mistaking them for the suspect. Common cases include fellow First Responders who are in plain clothes, Bystanders caught in the cross fire, Bystanders who don’t fit the exact description but ‘looked suspicious,’ and other such errors which go beyond the similar description mistaken identity. It doesn’t just occur in shooter situations either, it occurs with the general serving of warrants, in vehicular stops, and even in recovering runaways or Amber/Silver alert victims as several other studies have pointed out. If trained law enforcement personelle can’t correctly identify the target how is a GCSM with no tactical training going to?
What happens when Firs Responders arrive and misidentify the GCSM as an active shooter suspect? The study mentioned above makes exactly this point. And, so far the proposals say nothing about how to overcome this obstacle especially if there are multiple GCSM active on scene when first responders arrive.
And, for these four it’s important to also layer over on-top of this the reams of data that point out ethnic and racial minorities are more likely to be incorrectly profiled than anyone else. As well as studies that have show a correlation between both physical and mental disabilities and misidentification.
Furthermore, what happens if the GCSM decides NOT to respond to the incident? Let’s face it, at the most recent shooting the Officer on campus who was trained for just such action decided not to engage the active shooter. Subsequently, when First Responders arrived on scene they too decided not to engage the active shooter as well. This isn’t the first such example of Law Enforcement not directly responding immediately to an active shooter threat. If these professionals are unable or unwilling, for whatever reason, to go in guns blazing what is the chance that a GCSM would be any more successful.
Active situations are only part of the picture, let’s also consider the following scenarios as well:
What happens if the GCSM’s weapon accidentally discharges? There are numerous ways this can happen so an exhaustive list would take ages to document. All you need to know is the Insurance Industry considers it likely enough that they surcharge private weapons owners and have a multitude of loopholes for their homeowners insurance to guard against such claims. Furthermore, several major insurance companies will not even provide institutional insurance coverage when weapons are involved in the policy negotiation, this includes for schools, day cares, youth program facilities and more. The Dickey Am. and others may stop the study of gun violence but insurance companies still have reams of claims data and they obviously recognize the dangers the data points to. Another interesting point is that gunviolencearchive which tracks what is verifiably “reported” shows over 100 deaths and 321 total incidents of ‘accidental weapons discharge’ so far in 2018. While those seem like small numbers remember that records keeping on such incidents is limited by a number of factors and the reality of unreported and misreported injuries is estimated to be several times higher that their verified number making accidental injury and death more common that the combined murder + attempted murder + justified killing rate by guns.
What happens if the GCSM’s weapon is ‘taken’ and subsequently misused? There are also numerous ways this can happen, so it’s not worth enumerating all the possible scenarios and just look at some high level stats including revisiting what the insurance industry and gunviolencearchive have to offer. Some interesting points beyond those above is many educational jurisdictions already deal with high rates of theft and vandalism which needs to be taken into account when the gun or ammunition could be a target especially if the proper . Forced disarming of a GCSM is also a real possibility as well since GCSM might not possess the close-range combat skills to defend themselves with the weapon.
What happens if the GCSM themselves has a breakdown? We would all like to thing the best of school teachers, administrators and support staff but just like with every other profession there are going to be a few isolated problem individuals as well as more systemic problems that affect larger swaths of the education field’s labor as a whole. If we are unable or unwilling to vet gun owners in general and are similarly unsuccessful with vetting against issues such as racial bias, PTSD and other negatives within Law Enforcement, what makes us think we will be able to identify potentially harmful GCSM in this scenario. A GCSM could turn their weapon on themselves as a suicide. Or turn the weapon on someone else intentionally for any number of reasons.
And, lets look at a few more outcomes that are related to the appearance of guns in schools as it relates to those most directly impacted by it:
What happens when Parents begin pulling their children out of schools and other educational programs because of these kinds of actions? Generally, it seems like the GCSM program will apply to Public programs which already suffer from a manufactured crisis of confidence among politicians and parents resulting in ongoing budget problems, staffing problems, and so on. The number of students being transferred out of Public programs continues to rise and if private, parochial and charter, among others, are exempt or otherwise don’t participate in GCSM there’s a good chance that the upward trend will be expedited. Already the largest growth is among ethnic and racial minorities, in part, due to perceived bias in the education system against them both in transactional outcomes and in treatment of students. The second largest group is those diagnosed with disabilities. If minority parents already fear mistreatment in the system the introduction of GCSM will likely further encourage their exodus.
What happens when teachers, administrators and support staff leave and/or recruitment of new participants dwindles? Several Unions representing all three groups were already strongly against GCSM actions before the latest proposal and they have doubled down on their language. Individually, teachers, and to a lesser degree administrators, have been generally more outspoken against such actions than for it. Teachers, unionized or not, are going to be the primary catalyst for success or failure of such a program because they are the underpinning of the education system itself. There is a good chance that if this is forced on them many of them will seek out other, safer options. Particularly if private, parochial and charter, among others, are exempt or otherwise don’t participate in GCSM teachers who wish to remain in the profession will move there and away from gun schools, otherwise tutoring, consulting, retirement, etc are other options. Anti-teacher Republicans might see this as a positive unintended consequence but it will create a substancial brain drain on the labor force with lasting repercussions beyond just a real teacher shortage in certain jurisdictions.
What happens when we see an decrease in the fundamental success of students? Already, there are studies on the NYCDOE’s program that show significantly more than a passing correlation between the appearance of Resource Officers and Police presence on school campuses and decreased academic success. There’s several reasons suggested by the studies including increased stress due to the officers patrolling the school, increased discipline in the schools (which as also noted before tends to be the use of force kind), and a general sense of overall distraction being self-reported among students in schools with officers compared to similar schools without. Other studies have shown increased truancy rates at schools with armed guards.
What happens when Students boycott the presence of GCSM? We already know that students in some jurisdictions are mobilized against the NRA and pro-gun politicians to begin with and are doing so with the support of their communities, local and national organizations and private donors as well as by their current administrations and teachers, potential universties they might want to attend and potential major employers who might want to hire them. Should they decide to take aim at GCSM legislation it could result in major student strikes locally or possibly nationally that disrupt not only the educational process but potentially other aspects of the economy and social fabric. After all, these students have to live with all the consequences of GCSM presence in their lives – something advocates of GCSM often overlook.
What happens when Law Enforcement doesn’t support it? Already major police departments across the nation have decried the idea of GCSM for a number of reasons and individual members of law enforcement and former military personelle including MPs have provided a number of reasons most suggestions of GCSM would create more problems than it would solve. Furthermore, internal audits by departments that are involved in school security themselves provide no evidence that increased security is substantially reducing incidents at the schools themselves. In some cases the data by both the departments and the local DOE as well as in some cases like NYC through independent review suggests police and other law enforcement presence escalates existing problems, creates new problems and overall is a burden to both the school and local law enforcement. If law enforcement is reluctant to support more guns in schools that should be a big signal not to do it.
Finally, from an implementation perspective, it all comes down to money:
What exactly is covered in the Federal proposal versus what are the local jurisdictions on the hook for versus what are the individual GCSM going to have to handle? Putting guns in school will never be a simple endeavor — there’s the initial training which needs to be designed, developed and implemented, ongoing practice of the skills and training updates, the initial weapon, weapon maintenance and upgrades, the ammunition, the safe storage, insurance for all parties involved, legal funds, medial funds including mental health services for GCSM involved in PTSD situations resulting from discharge, reporting and related analysis of incidents, and so on. Thus far most of what is being proposed is very high level which misses many of these fundamental details and very pie-in-the-sky in assuming that it will be easy to define.
Where does the funding originate from in the first place? Let’s face it,
education funding is a wreck at all levels from the local jurisdictions as well as religious groups, for and not-for-profit private entities and so on that are the front lines of handling their schools all the way up to the Federal DOE’s funding policies. There isn’t enough money to pay teachers proper salaries, as seen by the West Virginia wildcat strike or the NYC teachers contract dispute that took almost 7 years to resolve due, in part, to salary inconsistencies – to name but two recent examples. After-school and extra-curricular programs are routinely reduced or cut due to a lack of funding. Classes that aren’t part of the core-literacy of Language-Science-Math-History such as Music, Art, Phys Ed, as well as some electives pertaining to core-literacy components are also routinely reduced or cut due to lack of funding. Educational special needs programs, honors programs, student lunch programs and more are routinely reduced or cut due to lack of funding. Building and grounds maintenance and safety, technology, transportation are reduced or cut due to lack of funding. But, we can suddenly find money for GCSM to exist?
What happens when the law suits begin? And they will happen for any number of reasons, but a few obvious ones are related to all the points already listed above. Furthermore, what happens in a court room greatly depends on the circumstances of the case and the kind of court involved. There’s a lot of what ifs embedded in the adversarial and overly litigious nature of the current US legal system to begin with, many of which have resulted in creating more controversy particularly around gun laws (ie: Travon Martin with Stand Your Ground in Florida, the DOJ’s failed prosecution of the Bundy clan, Baltimore city cops behaviors, etc) and GCSM opens a pandora’s box of unexpected and unintended outcomes that potentially do much more harm than good.
What happens when the money runs out for this program? Because, let’s face it, right now this Federal administration is hyper-focused on this endevour but there’s no guarantee that with the high turnover of officials the Federal DOE, ATF or DOJ, to name a few currently involved in creating the proposed program, will be staffed with similar minded people in a year. Or that Congress will have the same complexion after the 2018 mid-terms. Or that after 2020 there won’t be an entirely new administration with a new set of goals. Or that anti-government spending Republicans in Congress won’t decide to defund it in the future or pro-gun control Democrats in Congress won’t roll back support in other ways. If what little funding that is being made available were to disappear many of the inherent flaws that funding will help cover up initially will become giant warts that undermine the effectiveness and become both a financial and social burden.