Preparing teachers to use guns in schools 'not easy'

Posted March 15, 2018 3:00 p.m. EDT

— President Donald Trump and some North Carolina lawmakers have suggested that allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons might be the best way to prevent school shootings, but experienced firearms trainers said Thursday that such a move isn't simple.

Law enforcement officers in North Carolina – the only people who can carry a gun on school grounds under current state law – undergo 632 hours of training before they can even be sworn in and then receive 24 hours of refresher courses each year, said Steven Combs, the director of the Criminal Justice Standards Division of the state Department of Justice. That training includes day and night combat training, target identification, de-escalation of tense situations and safe handling of firearms and ammunition.

Teachers who carry guns also should undergo "mindset training" to prepare them mentally for deadly encounters in a classroom or hallway, said Michael Macario of Regional Proving Grounds LLC, a private firm that provides training for public safety workers and civilians.

Recent polls show about two-thirds of teachers don't want to be armed at school, but Macario, who's also a law enforcement officer, said he could design an 80-plus-hour course to prepare teachers who want to carry concealed weapons to do so safely. He had no cost estimate for such training.

Macario compared having teachers carry concealed weapons to having armed air marshals on airplanes, saying the potential of encountering someone with a weapon could deter someone going to a school and opening fire.

"Knowing that, hypothetically, there would be schools in North Carolina that would have an armed, but a concealed, anonymous teacher that was ready to engage a threat, it might make a difference in a person's assessment or decision to attack that school," he said.

"This whole presentation scares the living daylights out of me," said Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, saying she worries that guns might be pulled out in situations where there is no active shooter.

Macario said he often uses simulations in which drawing a weapon would be the wrong decision, and anyone who does so would fail the training and not be qualified to carry a gun in school.

Lawmakers said they're not yet ready to consider changing state law to allow teachers to be armed at school, saying much more study is needed.

"It's not easy to qualify somebody to carry a gun in public. It's a very serious situation," said Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford.

Sen. Ron Rabin, R-Harnett, said the state needs to have standards in place first.

"We need to try to make sure that everybody has the kind of training they need before we go throwing everybody in the world with a gun into a classroom or into a building like this to protect it," Rabin said.