Peele: Should school teachers have weapons?

Jan. 31, 2013 @ 08:36 AM

In 1951, I was a soldier in the 25th division in Korea.  My first day on the front line was memorable.   Our squad was assigned to a small area and told to defend our positions.  A sergeant pointed to a foxhole and said, "Stay there.  Stay silent.  Do not retreat."  I went to the foxhoIe – and could not see my buddies.

It wasn't much of a foxhole, just an indentation in the ground, perhaps two feet deep.    The ground was rocky:  I could not dig it any deeper. I got in it -- and hunkered down, trying to melt into the ground. I was alone.  Time went by.  I was scared and felt exposed, vulnerable and inept.  Night came.

Late that night, gunshots rang out to my right -- then more gunshots to my left.  The firing increased.  It sounded to me like the Chinese had attacked and a full-blown fire-fight had broken out.  I saw nothing, and therefore did not fire.

Eventually the firing stopped.

The next morning we were moved to a more permanent position.  "What was all the firing about? I asked. 

"It was a cow!" was the answer.  A cow!!

A soldier had heard a cow move.  He did not see anything, but decided to fire.  So did his buddy.   Then others joined in.  It was contagious.  Others, even though they did not hear or see anything, joined in. 

This was my introduction to the Korean battlefield.  It also introduced me to the reflexive response of soldiers when they perceived danger.

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Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas said this about the Newtown killings:  "I wish the principal had an M-4 in her office . . .so when she heard the gunfire, she pulls it out . . . and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids."

I believe those words are very unrealistic. Having witnessed the fiasco on the front line in Korea, I wonder if arming teachers is a good idea.  

Jim Glennon, who now trains police officers, agrees.   He says that winning a gunfight without harming or shooting innocent people requires intense, realistic, expensive training and a special kind of person.

Glennon was a police officer in Chicago.  He was approaching a shoplifter, when the suspect suddenly began shooting at him.   The experience taught him that when a person is under attack, the brain does not operate in a normal fashion.  Officers experience intense sensory distortion when involved in a gunfight -- including tunnel vision and loss of hearing. He ran from the shooter at an extremely high speed.  Yet to him, he felt he was moving very, very slow.  He found cover and turned to fire at the suspect.  There was no gun in his hand:  He had dropped his weapon and was pointing his finger at the suspect!

He was very lucky.  The suspect then threw down his weapon and surrendered.

Glennon says that we don't train police officers well enough to handle gunfights.  Therefore,  how can we possibly train teachers?  He says we need highly realistic, dynamic training lasting at least three weeks, and that is expensive.

New York police officers hit their intended targets only 18 percent of the time, according to a Rand study.  In the gunfight outside the Empire State Building, the police officers shot and killed the suspect and in that process also wounded nine bystanders

There is a danger that a child will be shot if teachers have guns in school.  Also, when the police come, they may shoot the teacher who has the gun, believing him to be the suspect in the chaos.

Let’s not over-react to the Newtown killings.  It is three times more likely that we will be struck by lightening than our children being killed at school.

While I have given some of the objections to having armed people at schools, there are also benefits.  The mere presence of armed personnel may keep some people from shooting in schools.

If we do have armed personnel at schools, we should do our very best to be sure that these people are well trained and that they have that special quality needed -- the ability to size up a situation, nerves of steel and the ability to react fast.

Stanley Peele serves as an emergency judge throughout the state. Readers can contact him at chh@heraldsun.com or c/o The Chapel Hill Herald, 2828 Pickett Road, Durham, NC.