What Part of “Trained and Licensed” Don’t They Understand?

We do not debate gun control on this website for the same reason that we do not debate the dichotomy of U.S. Black/White “racial” classification in Essays on the U.S. Color Line. In both debates (gun-control and “racial” dichotomy), one side bases its position on easily available peer-reviewed raw data while the other relies on righteous indignation. Hence, self-selected readers of Essays on the U.S. Color Line are comfortable with the likelihood that they (like half of U.S. Americans) are of mixed Euro-Afro ancestry. And readers of this site, Armed Citizens and the Law, are okay with knowing that some law-abiding folks carry guns.

Nevertheless, there is one issue that is routinely disputed when the topic of gun control is raised, even among armed citizens themselves. It is the fear that someone out there lacks adequate training. The training issue has lately become more heated than usual on gun forums, because of a recent school shooting in Connecticut.

Ever since laws were passed that forbid teachers from carrying guns in school, the United States, like Europe, has averaged about one school shooting every 60 days. (See this blog for details.) In simple fact, only one method has ever been proven to stop school shootings once and for all. That is to permit trained, licensed teachers to carry their sidearms on the job. [For details on Israel, see this interview from 1999.]

Other methods, such as declaring schools to be official “gun-free” zones, or deploying armed guards (including police) always fail. The former foolishly depends on criminals obeying the law. The latter is soon abandoned due to its cost. Some countries outlaw civilian firearms altogether. The United States has not yet tried this, but nations taking this approach quickly become flooded with illegal guns via a suddenly lucrative black market, with merchandise supplied by police and military.

Oddly, the most common objection (from gun owners as well as gun grabbers) to allowing trained and licensed teachers from carrying their weapons on the job is that teachers are untrained and unlicensed. This raises the obvious question: what part of “trained and licensed” don’t they understand? As far as I have been able to figure out, the “untrained, unlicensed” objection is often a smoke screen covering deeper concerns. I call the underlying arguments: the statist, the egoist, the LEO devotee, the berserker, and the cynic.

The statist argues that whatever the law allows should be mandatory. Advocates of allowing licensed teachers to carry their sidearms on the job stress that the role is voluntary. Statists object that such a policy would force weapons into the unwilling hands of teachers who hate guns. The clash is not mere misunderstanding. It stems from a deep belief that individuals must not be trusted with freedom of choice. If a behavior is okay for one person, then everyone should be forced into it.

The egoist agrees in principle, but objects that current civilian firearms training is inadequate. Most states have training standards that you must meet before obtaining a license. Some states establish bureaus to certify instructors and set course content. Others (such as Florida) rely on NRA course design and teacher certification. Unfortunately, as in every field of certified professionals, some instructors do not keep abreast of change, or cut corners from the approved syllabus, or simply sell course completion certificates after providing little or not instruction at all. Regarding the problem of inadequate instructors, the egoist rejects every solution but one: that he or she personally should be authorized to confiscate the teaching certificates of bad instructors. This proposal is often cloaked within a suggested “voluntary instructors’ association”, headed by the egoist, with the authority to de-certify firearms teachers.

The LEO devotee objects that civilians are not trained to the high standards of combat pistol shooting as are law enforcement officers. They believe (1) that civilians are less cautious than LEOs in identifying targets and what is behind their targets, (2) that they are slower and less accurate, and (3) that they are more likely to panic and either freeze or fire wildly. All three errors spring from ignorance. (1) Evidence of actual shootings shows the opposite. Civilians are more cautious than LEOs because they know that every bullet has a lawyer attached to it, and that they will not be shielded from liability by an agency. (2) A visit to an IDPA match should dispel the second error. Armed civilians tend to be faster and more accurate than LEOs because on average they train harder and more often. (3) No one, neither civilian nor LEO, can predict how they will react under stress. In general, however, people tend to react as they trained.

Teacher in Israel

The berserker says that teachers cannot be trusted with weapons because they might fly off the handle. They argue that the first time a teacher faces public education’s corrosive political bureaucracy, or is insulted by an unruly student, they will lose control. They will smash their fist into a door, rip the padlock off their locker, drive home recklessly cutting off other drivers. At home, they will kick the dog, yell at the kids, and browbeat their spouse. The next day, they will go back to school and shoot everyone in sight (paraphrased from an actual letter to the editor of a Daytona Beach newspaper). In all honesty, I am terrified to answer this argument.

Finally, the cynic (usually a law enforcement officer) argues that armed teachers will stand aside and allow their kids to be murdered, as long as the teacher is not personally threatened. The idea comes from knowing that although a citizen may act to defend someone else, they are never required to do so under the law. According to the LEO, police officers have a duty to defend others but civilians do not. And so, since the law does not punish armed teachers for cowering while their students are killed, that is precisely what teachers will do. In my opinion, this argument deserves nothing but contempt.

 


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Frank W. Sweet is an NRA-certified firearms instructor who teaches the safe and effective use of handguns for self-defense. He was awarded an M.A. in Civil War Studies in military history from American Military University in 2001. He is the author of Legal History of the Color Line (ISBN 9780939479238), Six Gems of Forgotten Civil War History (ISBN 9780939479023), and of numerous published historical essays. To receive a schedule of his firearms training courses, email to fwsweet@ccwvslaw.org. The information above should not be construed as legal advice.


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