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Guest column: Why Colorado schools are safer with the teachers armed

By: Laura Carno
February 27, 2018 Updated: February 27, 2018 at 8:46 am
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photo - Laura Carno.
Laura Carno. 

With all of the coverage of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., there has been a lot of discussion about whether schools in Colorado should have armed staff.

Not only should they have armed staff, but several dozen school districts in Colorado do have armed staff.

It has been the law in Colorado for the past 15 years that school districts can authorize individual school staff members to be armed first responders in their schools. These individuals are teachers, janitors, coaches, principals, and other administrators. They are required to have a valid concealed carry permit. Their districts require a significant level of training, regular practice and annual recertifications. In conjunction with the Independence Institute, Coloradans for Civil Liberties raises private money to help provide this training that includes medical training to Colorado schools at a reduced cost or at no cost.

In the 15 years that armed staff has been the law in Colorado, there have been no incidents in schools with armed staff.

Some schools, believing it to be a deterrent, have posted signs on their campus warning criminals that they have armed staff. Some districts are quieter about it. That decision is up to the individual school district.

Rural districts in Colorado, and in other states with armed school staff, have always been the early adopters to arming staff. They know, and their county sheriffs concur, that they are their first responders. In some of these rural areas, law enforcement response can be 30-45 minutes away. All agree that having someone on site who can stop a killer - and administer lifesaving first-aid - will save lives. The faster the killer is stopped, and the faster the bleeding is stopped, the fewer people will be injured or killed. It makes sense to so many that rural schools should be allowed to arm staff.

But in the average mass casualty event involving a perpetrator with a firearm, one person is shot every 17 seconds. If a police officer is in the parking lot of a suburban or urban school, and runs toward the sound of gunfire, how many 17-second intervals will it take for that officer to reach the killer? In 2013, there was a school resource officer on site at Arapahoe High School when a killer began his rampage. That school resource officer sprinted toward the sound of gunfire. It took him 45 seconds to get there. No one could have expected any more from that school resource officer.

The killer committed suicide when confronted by this armed defender, but it was not in time to save the life of Claire Davis. Would her life have been saved had there been an armed school staffer, who was carrying concealed? We will never know, but there may have been a chance that someone was closer than 45 seconds away to top the killer and save Claire.

In Parkland, Fla., the presence of a school resource officer didn't guarantee a measure of safety.

These monsters, who plan to take as many innocent lives as possible in their rampage, know who the uniformed officers are, whether they are school resource officers or other armed and uniformed security officers. If a school is large enough for a school resource officer, it is a large school with multiple doors, hallways, buildings, and floors. And it is large enough for the school resource officer to be somewhere else when the killing starts. The killer counts on that because his goal is to take as many lives as he can. But he won't know where the other school staff members are who carry concealed.

To parents and grandparents, how many 17-second intervals are acceptable to you, if it were your child or grandchild at risk? For many, having armed staff is not only a deterrent to a killing happening on that campus, but can also stop the killer more quickly if he gets past the other school security measures.

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Laura Carno is the executive director of FASTERColorado.com, an organization that trains armed first responders in Colorado schools.

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