The Sage

Opinion: Putting Arms in the Right Arms

Maxwell Yang, Copy Editor

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Arming teachers to stop school shooters has been described as fighting fire with fire; it’s been speculated to be hardly effective against shooters and would only worsen situations. I don’t entirely disagree. But if something is to be done about this, we shouldn’t completely trash the idea of having “a good guy with a gun” on campus. The “good guy” doesn’t always have to be a teacher. It can be a police officer or a security guard, or some other person with extensive firearm and active shooter scenario training. Above all, however, we must take into consideration who we are arming if we want to protect our students without accidentally injuring or killing them.

Passing out handguns to teachers and expecting them to save lives when a lone student comes to school one day with an AR-15 and plenty of ammunition in his duffel bag is, at the very least, a foolish idea. School shooters often happen to be students attending the school (or used to attend at some point, like Nikolas Cruz) and happen to be visually indistinguishable from other students. Who would’ve thought? The only difference is that one carries a rifle and the other carries books.

Maxwell Yang
But in the event in which a single gun-toting villain charges into the school and starts lighting the place up, students are no doubt going to head to the nearest classroom for shelter. How will the teacher know who is a student and who is a shooter in such a stressful and fast-paced situation?

In the heat of the moment, it could be hard to differentiate between the two. There is an immense risk that comes with this; if the teacher mistakes an innocent student for the shooter, then it’s game over for the teacher and the student. Likewise, if the shooter is mistaken for a student, then it creates a disaster waiting to unfold. Either way, it places far too much responsibility on the teacher who cannot be trusted to make the right decision and the correct identification.

But even when a shooting is not happening, students’ lives are potentially still in danger. A good majority of teachers are probably unfamiliar with firearms and/or have never handled one, and are probably unfamiliar with the four commandments of firearm operation, respectively:

  1. Never point the weapon in the direction of anything that is not intended to be damaged or destroyed
  2. Always assume the weapon is loaded, and handle it as such
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target
  4. Know your target and everything around (and especially behind) it

Failing to follow these rules can result in unintentional injury or even death.

On March 14, a teacher (who was a former reserve officer for the local police department) accidentally discharged a firearm into the ceiling, and debris struck a nearby student in the neck. Thankfully, the injury was not life-threatening. The teacher was also incredibly lucky; what would have happened if there was a classroom above?

The most common pistol cartridge is the 9mm Parabellum, and full-metal jacket (FMJ) 9mm bullets designed for armor penetration can easily pass through one or even two windows, walls, floors, and ceilings in the case of an intentional or unintentional discharge and still have enough energy to injure or even kill someone. With rifle rounds, the penetration collateral damage increases dramatically.

Additionally, purchasing the extra equipment necessary to arm teachers (including ammunition and safes) wouldn’t be the cheapest thing. Teachers will have to pass background checks before any firearms can be purchased. Let’s assume that the teachers will be armed with handguns for the sake of practicality. One of the most popular handguns in the world, the Glock 19, starts at $499. Purchasing multiple handguns will easily cost a few thousand dollars, and the safes and ammunition will add a few hundred more to the gross expenditures. Practically speaking, it is far too expensive to arm even a portion of our teachers.

I’m not saying that we should completely disregard all ideas of putting firearms in the hands of well-trained staff entrusted to protect students. I am saying, however, that we must strongly consider who we are choosing to arm.

Police officers, security guards, and school resource officers (almost like a blend of a campus supervisor and security guard) on the other hand have the training and equipment necessary to protect our students should someone get the idea of shooting the school up. Not only do they know how to identify threats and distinguish them from non-threats, they are also well-trained in firearm use and are much more knowledgeable about firearm safety than the average teacher. Police officers, security guards, and school resource officers can also maintain constant communication to each other through the use of handheld radio sets, which is vital in an event like a school shooting so targets are not misidentified.

Although police officers, security guards, and school resource officers are the only personnel trusted to carry firearms and use them in a school shooting, there are also a few potential exceptions to arming teachers. Some states have a voluntary School Marshal program that trains teachers in firearm use and prepares them for situations including (but not limited to) school shootings. Texas’s School Marshal program, in particular, requires teachers (who are willing to become a School Marshal) to undergo an 80-hour training course at a law enforcement academy that has specifically been prepared for the School Marshal program. It also covers topics including, but not limited to, “physical security, improving the security of the campus, use of force, active shooter response, and weapon proficiency.” This School Marshal program effectively covers all of the safety issues associated with arming teachers with the intent of preventing a school shooter from inflicting casualties, although the cost is still an issue.

Ideally, the School Marshal program should only be offered to teachers who have had prior experience in law enforcement, security, armed forces, or other related services in order to ensure that the teacher is responsible enough to protect their students. If teachers without prior experience are also to be eligible, then a recertification course would be needed to ensure that all teachers are still responsible enough.

It goes without question that thousands upon millions of students across the nation feel that their education and personal safety is compromised when there are weapons, be they carried by dedicated security officers, well-trained staff, or a soon-to-be mass murderer. Their doubts, as time has shown, again and again, are not unfounded and are completely valid. By ensuring that all police officers, security guards, school resource officers, and School Marshals are thoroughly trained in firearm use and firearm safety, this risk, and fear can be easily negated. This can be taken a step further by requiring School Marshals to store their handguns in safes, only to be taken out when being cleaned (outside of school hours) or when there is an emergency situation happening.

In addition, the types of ammunition used can be restricted to hollow-point ammunition or other types that do not over penetrate and cause collateral damage. Hollow-point ammunition is designed to rapidly expand upon impact, which prevents it from going through walls or other surfaces. While it is ineffective against armor, it will prevent injuries and casualties in the event that a discharged firearm — whether intentional or accidental — causes no harm to anybody.

At the end of the day, students should feel right at home when attending school. It’s been said before, and I’m going to say it again: students should read books and have fun with friends at school, not read obituaries and mourn friends after a shooting has passed at their school. To prevent an active shooter situation from ever gracing our schools again, we must seek a preventative measure, and there’s nothing more preventative to a school shooter than having well-trained and armed opposition standing in the way.

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11 Responses to “Opinion: Putting Arms in the Right Arms”

  1. Andrew Coviello on May 8th, 2018 2:26 pm

    This article was not only well written – it was well informed. Maxwell, you have presented an unbiased and advanced argument understandable by all levels. Truly a piece de resistance for an opinion writer. You not only recalled an overhanging societal problem, but you also stated a solution in discreet detail. My eyes lit up when I read the first paragraph, and your word choice is well-constructed. Five out of five stars.

  2. Maxwell Yang on May 9th, 2018 12:28 pm

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article, Andrew!

  3. Alex Estes on May 9th, 2018 9:54 am

    Awesome article, Maxwell. Also lets get a dub tonight huh?

  4. Maxwell Yang on May 9th, 2018 12:27 pm

    Where we droppin’ boys

  5. Ethan Parker on May 10th, 2018 9:56 am

    It’s nice to see an actual, reasonable argument nowadays (in this age where extremely biased people on both sides often give extremely biased arguments with many not wanting to do research and fact check) , and I think you have some very good points, too!

  6. George on May 10th, 2018 10:08 am

    Although I disagree, this article was written well. It spoke the mind of the author as well as the students at Sage. The only problem I have with this article is that it makes the idea of arming teachers seem absurd. Although the idea of allowing officials to carry firearms in schools is frightening, to an extent, it may be one of our only solutions. Next I will present some facts about New Hampshire in comparison to California.

    New Hampshire allows teachers in K-12 schools to carry a firearm if they have a Concealed Carry Permit. And although New Hampshire has a high amount of guns in comparison to California, they have had 42 less school shootings. New Hampshire has had 1 school shooting, while California has had 43 and teachers in California are not allowed to carry in school.

    “For every 1,000 residents in California, there are 7.6 guns. While New Hampshire comes in at number 13, with 14.6 guns for every 1,000 residents. ”

    I am not suggesting that we give guns to all teachers, I am simply proposing that if a teacher already has a concealed carry permit, they should be able to carry at school.


  7. Mitchell B. on May 10th, 2018 12:45 pm

    So I don’t want to bash on your opinion but I did want to point out some flaws with your reasoning. You use New Hampshire as evidence that more guns doesn’t necessitate more shootings, but you’re forgetting population characteristics that are important for a fair comparison. I couldn’t personally find statistics for the number of shootings in either California or New Hampshire, so i’m just going to assume that your statistics are accurate. I’m assuming that the 43 shootings that have happened in California are within the last 20 years, and the shooting in New Hampshire was within the same time period as well. So first of all, the population of California is about 30x that of New Hampshire. That means just off raw population statistics, if New Hampshire had the same population, that alone would place them at about 30 school shootings (obviously this is just an estimate using proportions – we can’t actually know). But that isn’t the only factor to consider. It just so happens that New Hampshire is the state with the highest median income in the nation. To be fair, California’s isn’t far behind – sitting at around $60,000 – but is arguably inflated by the large and variable population and geography. After all, that value jumps to $90,000 in Silicon Valley while the individual income in LA is just $27,000. When compared to the relatively consistent values present across New Hampshire, this information is important. Because while highly debated, crime is undoubtedly correlated to lower incomes. This alone more than accounts for the difference in school shootings, especially considering that schools in California have consistently higher numbers of students and are more likely to be underfunded. The gun ownership disparity is also mostly irrelevant – the average gun ownership average can’t be taken seriously, because gun owners are likely to own more than 4 guns, while the rest have no guns at all. Yet obviously shooters are mostly limited to gun owners; So the total number of guns doesn’t matter. It’s more important to note how many gun owners there actually are.

  8. Maxwell Yang on May 10th, 2018 8:21 pm

    Carrying at school may not be a terrible idea, provided the teacher is sensible about gun safety and proper handling. The only issue is that concealed carry laws are determined by individual states, so it varies incredibly depending on where you live. In most of California, it is extremely hard to obtain a concealed carry permit, whereas New Hampshire is essentially unrestricted in terms of concealed carry laws. You can check out more concealed carry laws per state at

  9. George J on May 24th, 2018 9:44 am

    Great responses and I do see the flaws in my reasoning, it’s very easy to get caught in my own echo chamber of evidence.

  10. Koa on May 10th, 2018 1:31 pm

    guns are sweeeeeeet

  11. Mark sanchez on May 31st, 2018 1:11 pm


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The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA
Opinion: Putting Arms in the Right Arms