Allow teachers to protect their students, themselves

Dr. Harold Pease - Contributing Columnist

One of the revelations that surfaced from the Umpqua Community College massacre, the worst in Oregon history, was that the deranged gunman, (I join others in refusing to name the killer giving him desired publicity) carried enough rounds of ammunition to kill dozens more. What stopped him? He decided to kill himself when confronted with a shootout with police eight minutes into the slaughter. It takes a gun to stop a gun. Why not allow teachers and others with student responsibilities, the right to protect those under their care if they wish to?

Just one gun somewhere near the premise could have been enough, one victim told her father in the hospital. The shooter had eight minutes of unrestrained killing time before police arrived after 911 notification and before he took his life ending the massacre. If but one armed concealed weapons permit holder had been in the classrooms, or close by, he/she could have saved several minutes of indiscriminate slaughter, in this case nine lives and an equal sum of injuries. No it would not have saved 67-year-old Assistant Professor Lawrence Levine, as he was the first murdered and had zero warning, but most certainly others.

This is not to suggest that every teacher must participate, only those who wish to. Hundreds of regular permit holding citizens in my county already carry concealed weapons everywhere except in gun free zones (others call “free kill zones”). Such is the same in most counties throughout the nation. Law enforcement normally see permit holders as an asset, the ultimate backup should they need extra help, and also because cops know they can’t be everywhere at the same time, as some Umpqua college students learned the hard way. Why not let them do so on school grounds as well, allowing them to be an asset of protection wherever they are? They are on the scene, care for their students, are a trusted profession in society, and, most importantly, are themselves threatened. It would cost the college nothing. Chances are every college has several concealed weapons permit holders among its faculty and staff already. Again, why not let those who wish to protect their students do so?

Permit holders are among our finest citizens. Obtaining a concealed weapons permit requires a thorough investigation, a near perfect record from law enforcement, a stated need to carry, and some training. Normally they are older more mature folks and, in the case of teachers, society already trusts their young people to them several hours a day. They are already on the scene where a policeman could not possibly be. What a deterrent to a would-be killer if he knew schools are not so vulnerable.

Gun free zones clearly do not work as most massacres in the United States happen in them. Anticipating no resistance, rather than deter, they entice killers giving them access to large groups of unprotected, good, and innocent victims — often children. Presently the only hope that a teacher, wishing to protect his/her students has is to hide them — not realistic.

In my classroom of many years, as in most, there is but one door, which opens outwardly. Everyone inside, including me, has been set up by his own government to be a victim. Turning out the light, if the classroom is not the first visited to do the killing, might trick the gunman to move on to another classroom — but this is unlikely. If this were the first classroom with no warning no one could possibly get to the door in time to lock it.

For years my only defense was to ask students sitting on the door side of the room, upon hearing gunfire from outside the room, to lineup next to the wall, remove the fire extinguisher from the wall next to a door that opens outwardly, and spray or hit the intruder as he enters. Those behind him then were to overwhelm the intruder after the distraction, but this is all that we can do and it is not enough. Since my students are young adults this could work with a lot of luck. Again, if we were a killer’s first classroom such is, in fact, a “free kill zone.” Better yet, a teacher or student with a concealed weapons permit, need only pull out a weapon from pocket or purse and fire a couple of rounds at a very surprised — then very dead — potential killer.

Elected officials, please give students and teachers a fighting chance to survive. Teachers have done nothing that should justify disarming us, or fearing us, and thus leaving us with virtually no hope of survival. You may answer, “We can’t just let anyone have a weapon of mass destruction!” You already do!!Anyone, 16 and older, can have access to an automobile, which is decidedly a weapon of mass destruction—even if he might commit crimes with it.

This brings us back to the lessons of Umpqua Community College. In this case the killer did his deed in a location that he probably supposed to be gun free and ceased his rampage of killing only when confronted with another gun. Next time let that person be a teacher or staff member with a concealed weapon, and a vested interest in his and the safety of those around him, whose immediate action would allow so many more students to live.

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Dr. Harold Pease

Contributing Columnist

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