Tradecraft: What teachers need to know about carrying a weapon

(TFC) – States are passing laws allowing teachers to carry weapons in the classroom. This article is not intended to debate the topic, but merely provide some guidance to those who are engaging in the practice.

1. Just as the Spanish teacher tells her students, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” Shooting is a perishable skill. Practice shooting constantly. Practice in the manner you will have to defend the classroom. If you plan on crouching behind your desk, practice firing from a crouched position. When firing under stress, your heart rate is elevated and your breathing may become irregular. Running in place or doing push-ups or jumping jacks immediately prior to firing a magazine can help simulate this response.

2. Use frangible ammo. Your classroom is most likely a giant concrete box. Frangible ammo will break up when it impacts the wall, reducing the risk of ricochet. Your goal is to protect the students, not subject them to concrete metal shrapnel.

3. When practicing, don’t use silhouettes. Use small targets. Man-sized targets may create a “close enough” syndrome. You want to be able to put the bullet exactly where you want it. When using silhouettes, people often convince themselves multiple rounds in non-lethal locations on the target will take the opposition out of the fight. This isn’t always true. Many active shooters have worn body armor. Your accuracy is extremely important.

4. Never let any student know you have a weapon under any circumstance. If one student knows, assume they all know including the shooter. This eliminates your element of surprise and places a target on your back. Surprise is essential when combatting a person who is most likely more heavily armed than yourself.

5. Make sure your administration has worked out a procedure with the responding law enforcement agency to identify rooms with armed teachers. There’s no reason to have a shootout between teachers and cops. This could be as simple as having a red index card to place in the window of the door to the classroom so the entry team sees it. Prior to opening the door, the entry team could slide a green card under the door or make a coded knock. You’re only limited here by your imagination. Some system of sign and countersign should be in place.

6. Don’t underestimate the power of psychological warfare. A monthly announcement reminding teachers, “today is range day. Don’t forget we ran out soda last time, so bring extras” will create the appearance of many armed teachers and provide a further deterrent. Even if there are only two armed teachers in the entire school, this announcement will make it seem as though there are dozens. 

7. Prepare yourself for the sights and sounds of firing in an enclosed space. A concrete room will echo. The sound of weapons fire in an enclosed space will cause pain. It can be disorienting. While not medically advisable, it might be worth firing a magazine at an indoor range without hearing protection to familiarize yourself with the pain and symptoms. Obviously, this may cause hearing damage. 

8. In the event of an active shooter, do not stand between your students and the door. While instinctively, you may want to shield them, please remember the shooter will target you first. Any round the shooter fires that misses will hit behind you and endanger your students.

9. If the school has cameras and the monitors to those cameras can be accessed from a secure location, use the PA to broadcast the shooter’s location as he moves. This will provide students and faculty with a warning, as well as hopefully panic the shooter.

10. The hardest part: no matter what you hear or see, do not leave your classroom. You are not John McClane. It is unlikely you will know the number of shooters or their location. As discussed earlier, gunshots in enclosed spaces echo. They can seem like a shooter is in a different location than he really is. You may be surprised and overtaken. Protect your classroom or another area you have secured. If you’re moving about the school while armed and police make entry, you will probably be shot.

11. Conventional wisdom dictates dislodging an opponent that is defending and behind cover takes three attackers for every one defender. Your classroom should be safe if you utilize the fatal funnel of the door.

12. Winning a firefight requires three things: Speed, surprise, and violence of action. If an attacker enters your class, quickly open fire from cover and do not stop until there is no longer a threat. This typically means the attacker is dead. While protecting yourself: recover his weapon and magazines, reclose the door, and take cover again. There may be other shooters.

13. If you have elected to do this, drop all humanity at the door. You cannot think about the morality of the situation or about the life of someone who may have been a student but is now trying to kill those around you. He is no longer a person. He is your opponent and you are playing a life and death game. The winner of the game gets the lives of your students.

For more information about what is and isn’t “cover”, what a “fatal funnel” consists of, how firefights are won, and on firearms in general, please follow this link and ignore the headline. 

I’d like to thank those who helped draft these suggestions. The suggestions above come from people whose resumes include: US Army Special Operations units, law enforcement, private security consulting, and military contracting.