Author Archives: Militaris

“Arming Teachers” – Fallacious Arguments and Irrelevant Evidence

Colorado Educators Training to Protect Their Schools, 2017

There is a disproportionate buzz about the newly signed Florida legislation that allows its school districts (each at its own discretion) to authorize concealed carry of firearms by teachers in their schools.

Why disproportionate?  Because the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, signed into law in March 2018 soon after the Parkland mass shooting, had already established the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program” named after the coach who gave his life attempting to shield students with his body during that shooting.  That program gave school boards the option of allowing school staff members to carry firearms, excluding most classroom teachers who were not JROTC teachers, or current service members, or current or former law enforcement officers.

Last year’s bill established a tough training standard, and left the decision to local school boards, both very good things.  And since school staff who are not classroom teachers often comprise as high as 50% of the total, this approach was rational, if overly cautious, as school boards would still have the authority to approve or disapprove any applicant, without the no-teacher provision imposed by law.

The only change with the new law is that now all classroom teachers are also eligible to volunteer for the Guardian program.  Note “eligible” and “volunteer” and you will understand why so much of the near-hysterical opposition to this law is baseless.

In Loco Parentis

Of course, no one is actually “arming” any teachers – there is no arms room where they will line up to be issued weapons before filing into the trenches – much less “all” teachers, which is how the opposition likes to frame its strawman argument.  They will arm themselves, if their school board votes to implement the Guardian program, and if they individually volunteer, pass rigorous screening and selection, and complete the legally mandated 132 hours of training.  No one is guaranteed approval, and the standards they must meet are high.

The Miami New Times, not known for smart or principled positions on any firearms issue, is one of the media outlets appalled that the legislature and governor, elected by citizens to legislate and govern, have not allowed themselves to be ruled by teachers’ unions, high school students, and some school boards and administrators. All those folks display their statist leanings by wanting to impose their own fears of positive protective measures on everyone. Under Florida law, if they (and, pointedly, the voters in their school districts) do not want to implement the Guardian program, they don’t have to. They can keep the Gun Free Zone signs over their doors and hope for the best. But that’s not enough for them; they think they know better than anyone else what is best for every school district in Florida.

Local control on this issue is a sound and sensible approach, in line with the rule of subsidiarity, the concept that decision-making should occur at the lowest level appropriate to its purpose. Local control is often preferable to decision making by officials far-removed from the affected population, less responsive to their local and regional preferences, and more likely to impose one-size-fits-all solutions. Voters can more easily influence or replace an unresponsive local elected official than his state or federal counterparts.  Here it means what Florida and many other states have ruled: let the school districts decide for themselves.

Beyond that repugnant statist attitude, opponents of “arming” school staff try to bolster their argument with unsupportable claims and sloppy ‘research’ – textbook examples of confirmation bias, the tendency to only consider evidence that supports one’s preconceived notions. The Miami New Times cites an analysis by Gabrielle Giffords’ anti-gun organization that purports to show how dangerous introducing “more guns” to schools will be. It is such a sloppy piece of research and reasoning that we cannot let it go unanswered.

This long piece cites 67 “incidents of mishandled guns in schools” from all over America, from 2014 to the present, to support their opposition to concealed carry of firearms by school staff who meet the requirements of Florida’s Guardian program.  But here’s the rub: only one of these 67 incidents involved a school staffer carrying a firearm under similar requirements. That one involved a Texas superintendent who left her authorized firearm locked in a district vehicle when she and her staff visited another district where she was not authorized to carry it – and then forgot to recover the weapon and left it in the van overnight, to be found in the morning.

Every other incident on this list actually supports the premises behind Florida’s Guardian program, and similar programs in the many other states with similar laws on the books.  Not one carefully vetted armed staff member carrying a concealed firearm with knowledge and approval of their school board, in accordance with strict standards, in well over 1,000 schools around the country, was involved in any of the other 66 incidents cited.

Better than a “Gun Free Zone”

Fifteen of the incidents on this list involved subjects who were not staff members at all; some of these were commissioned officers, while others were merely family members or or other visitors carrying firearms on school property in violation of the law.  Another incident involved two coaches, but occurred off school property.  Desperate to plump up the numbers, are we?

What this list actually does is to demolish the assertion often made by opponents of armed school staff, that guns in school should be left to the “armed professionals.”  While the Miami New Times quotes some who seem to believe that armed officers make schools safer, Giffords does not think so, and on this point at least, we can at least understand the sentiment.  Fully 27 of the 67 incidents in the Giffords study involve “armed professionals” – commissioned police officers or deputies assigned to a school, officers responding to a call for assistance or visiting for other reasons, or other uniformed security guards or school resource officers employed on site. These “armed professionals” had unintentional discharges (several of which injured themselves or others), left their weapons in restrooms or elsewhere unattended, and in two egregious cases, failed to stop a child from pulling the trigger of their holstered weapon.

So much for ‘armed professionals’ – we who are armed professionals know how little sustained, realistic, demanding training most officers undergo, and how easily complacency creeps in.  Uniformed guards – commissioned or not – are not ten feet tall. They are unfortunately sometimes less dedicated and often less proficient than educators who understand their responsibilities “in loco parentis” and undergo rigorous and frequent training required by law and school district policy. Who has not heard educators saying, “we would sacrifice our lives to protect the kids in our care”?  Give the tools and the skills to those who are willing, and they can do better than just sacrifice themselves like Coach Feis did at Parkland.

This is not to say that officers are all deficient in their skills and judgment – far from it – or that they cannot train to a high standard; but we who are trainers know without a shadow of a doubt that motivated civilians can do just as well, with the proper training. In the schools as on the streets, they are not volunteering to act as law enforcement officers, which is a very broad skill set indeed, but only to protect innocents against lethal threats – a very narrow skill set that comprises only a small slice of a police officer’s responsibilities.

In fact, what we do know is that responding police – even when do not have unintentional discharges like several in this list – do not protect schools against active shooters, because they almost always arrive too late; and that uniformed officers on site have a very spotty record. The uncertainty in a potential aggressor’s mind that is created by the prospect of an unknown number of trained staff members carrying concealed weapons at various but unpredictable locations throughout a school, appears to be a better deterrent than one uniformed officer, as evidenced by the complete absence of active shooter incidents in such schools.  Arguably, if one is swayed by logic, they will prove to be a more effective and flexible defense as well, if that unprecedented day does arrive when a shooting happens in their school.

Columbine high school shooters captured on video.

Again, with the exception of that Texas superintendent, none of these incidents involved an approved, trained, school staff member carrying a concealed weapon.  The closest thing to it is the anomalous case of a teacher in Utah in 2014. State law there allows any resident with a concealed carry permit to carry in the schools. There is no requirement to even notify the school board or administration, much less be vetted or approved, or to be trained to any standard beyond the 8 hours of mostly classroom training required for a permit. This teacher dropped her weapon in a toilet stall (before school, with no students in the building); it discharged, shattering the bowl and cutting her calf with a flying shard.  That’s not a laughing matter, or not only a laughing matter, but should be taken in context. Utah’s law has been in place for 20 years, and out of 700,000 citizens with concealed carry permits (14 million person-years?), this is the only reported occasion in which anyone has been injured by a legal concealed carrier’s firearm in a Utah school. And she doesn’t work there any more.  It may also be significant that Utah has had no mass shootings in its schools, but we can only speculate. Pretty safe state, Utah, for all that their statute is far less prescriptive than Florida’s or many other states.

So Giffords, although it titles its piece “Every Incident of Mishandled Guns in Schools” and assures us that theirs is a “systematic analysis,” and that this list of 67 incidents is “comprehensive” for the date range of 2014-2014, has absolutely failed to make a case against armed school staff members in districts that opt in, under authorizing state law, with well-drafted programs and requirements.

Opponents of protecting our schools and children with armed staff on site will have to do better than this, to make a case worth listening to.

Below is a tabulation of the incidents the Giffords piece cites, upon which these conclusions are based. The “Disqualifiers” column notes specific conditions which render the example irrelevant to the argument. “Illegal firearm” indicates that the weapon was on school property in violation of federal and/or state law.  The only exceptions to this disqualifier are the 27 cases involving law enforcement officers and paid security guards, and the afore-mentioned cases of the Texas superintendent and Utah teacher. Those who violate the law or handle firearms incompetently are precisely the sort who are unlikely to volunteer in the first place, or to pass a careful vetting and selection process, or a demanding, standards-based training program, all characteristics of Florida’s Guardian program and those of many other states. As in so many firearms discussions, the actions of criminals and incompetents do not form a rational basis for critiquing the vast majority of actual or potential armed citizens in any venue, including schools.

Dystopian future

But it couldn’t happen here, right? We’re special.


The Earthquake That Will Devastate the Pacific Northwest – The New Yorker

[Pulse’s manual UNIT TACTICS: For The Defense Of Neighborhood And Community cites the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake as an example of a very large scale potential natural disaster.  The safety and security implications are rarely addressed.]

When the Cascadia fault line ruptures, it could be our worst natural disaster in recorded history.

Source: The Earthquake That Will Devastate the Pacific Northwest – The New Yorker

Report: MS-13 foot soldiers use ‘surge’ to cross border, ‘colonize new criminal territory’

Criminal networks with Latin American roots, such as MS-13 and the 18th Street gang, are using the administration’s open-door policy at the border to slip in recruits that are causing a huge spike in murder and violence throughout the nation, according to an immigration expert. Testifying Thursday at a House hearing on the border surge of young Latinos, the expert said, Established gangs have been able to transfer an unknown number of experienced foot soldiers from Central America to help colonize new criminal territory in the United States. Jessica M. Vaughan, the policy director for the Center for Immigration Studies, told the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Border Security subcommittee that the tide of new young people, many of whom have already been exposed or involved in street gangs at home, has provided a huge pool of new recruits for the gangs here. Gangs such as MS-13 and 18th Street are enjoying a brutal revival in certain parts of the country and are establishing themselves in new places. Jessica M. Vaughan discussing the issues of visa overstayers.

Source: Report: MS-13 foot soldiers use ‘surge’ to cross border, ‘colonize new criminal territory’

Militia: if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all

In the aftermath of the jihadist terror attacks on a recruiting office and reserve center in Chattanooga, patriotic Americans have stepped up to provide armed security at similar locations around the country, citing the military proscription on uniformed soldiers being armed for their own self-protection.

Some of these protectors have acted independently and spontaneously, but many have done so in response to a “National Call to Action” ( by the Oath Keepers, an organization originally founded to encourage loyalty to the oaths taken by military personnel, public servants and others to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, in the event of a conflict between those oaths and unlawful orders.

That original, laudable focus has been weakened by the organization’s tendency toward direct action, which has led to high-profile involvement in the Cliven Bundy ranch confrontation in Nevada, the civil unrest in Ferguson, and now the terrorist threat to military personnel in-country. In these instances, Oath Keepers have acted in the guise of a citizen’s militia. Without entering into a debate on the merits of any of these particular causes, let’s consider what might go wrong, and how thoughtful patriots might approach such issues.

When civilians arm themselves within the law and interpose themselves into situations beyond legitimate self-defense – a fair description of all three situations cited above – they invite miscalculation and tragedy.  Let us count the ways.

  1. American history blends with myth in the imagination of many patriots. The militiamen who stood on Lexington Green and at the Concord Bridge in 1775 were not spontaneous gatherings of outraged, doughty farmers. The Massachusetts militia was a large, articulated, organized force, with a clear hierarchy of rank, chain of command, alert and mobilization procedures and protocols, and (contrary to popular legend) significant training in the military tactics of the day. On April 19, 1775, there were 47 regiments, and 14,000 men, in the Massachusetts militia. Their constituent companies were organized, led, and trained by commissioned and noncommissioned officers resident in their local communities. The structure, cohesion, and effectiveness of the militia dated back to the earliest days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This is what the founders meant by “a well regulated militia” in the language of the Second Amendment: they had fifteen years’ recent experience to teach them the difference between a well-regulated militia and an undisciplined, ineffective rabble in arms. What Oath Keeper chapter, or other self-styled militia organization today has comparable organization, cohesion, training – and above all, a comparable sanction from their local communities and governments?
  2. The British expedition on April 19, 1775 that provoked the mobilization of the Massachusetts militia was not unprecedented. Indeed, the colonists embodied the nearly contemporary advice of Edmund Burke that “It is no inconsiderable part of wisdom, to know how much of an evil ought to be tolerated,” and “I must bear with infirmities until they fester into crimes.” Their resort to arms was preceded by years of political engagement with the British authorities, and by several other militia call-outs in the face of British military expeditions into the countryside, none of which had resulted in shots fired. It is perhaps instructive that the chain of command – from the colonial government down to company officers – worked to ensure restraint and avoid outright rebellion against governmental authority until the British Crown closed down all other avenues of redress. Where is that chain of command, where is that link to local and state governance, and that assurance of wisdom and restraint, in today’s self-styled ‘militias’?
  3. The Oath Keepers’ call to action to protect military recruiting offices includes a wise and necessary admonition: “Be sure that those on the armed teams belong there. Are they cool, collected, trained, experienced, competent and safe with [their] firearms?”  But in a voluntary association without enforceable rank structure, command control and military discipline, and without a formal program of training, qualification, and certification, who is to be the judge of their fellows, as to what constitutes an acceptable demeanor, or competence and safety with arms? And what happens when an individual judged – by one of his peers – to be lacking in one of these areas is asked to excuse himself – and declines?
  4. Tactics. There are many tactical considerations in the sort of security operation that citizens are trying to conduct around recruiting offices, but judging superficially from the photos in the media, these operations may at best provide some degree of deterrence by their visible presence – but no defense at all. Standing with rifles slung at the ready, in combat gear and some identifying hat or armband, in front of the plate glass windows, or sitting on the tailgate of a pickup next to the cooler, simply invites the initial volley from any determined attacker. Double the body count, and for what? This sort of visible presence makes for great publicity shots, but is not the way to win a fight.  Or let’s consider what happens in the average urban or suburban setting even if the defenders are better situated, or sufficiently alert and reactive to a threat, and are able to initiate or return fire. We are not talking about an overseas war zone, but a domestic peacetime environment, where as any trained shooter knows, “you own the final resting place of every round you fire.” How many of those 5.56mm rounds, fired by well-meaning patriots of inconsistent and unknowable proficiency, will miss their intended target and travel with lethal energy a mile or two – or until they stop in the car, home, business, church, school, or body of an innocent? One of the well-known “Four General Firearms Safety Rules” is to “Be sure of your target and what’s behind it,” but what I see in most of these locations is 180 degrees or more where potential threats might appear, and where the background is simply the local community these volunteers mean to protect.
  5. Lawfulness and liaison. The Oath Keeper guidance also stipulates that: “It is best that you also notify the local police and coordinate with them, if possible… if the local police are not supportive, or even hostile, deal with and work around it to be sure the recruiters are protected.”  Indeed, in many jurisdictions, armed citizens’ contributions have been acknowledged and accepted by the authorities, but let’s think about the situations where, inevitably, this will not be the case. High profile armed citizens post themselves in public settings to protect persons other than themselves, and property that is not their own, without the knowledge or blessing of local law enforcement. What could possibly go wrong here? What will their mere presence, or in the worst case an actual firefight at that location, do to improve relationships between the police and citizen groups like Oath Keepers? Acting as an armed group, not under color of law, and without the sanction or support of local law enforcement, is an invitation to fratricide, to arrest and prosecution on pretext if not on substance, and to a worsening state of relations among the formal and informal protectors of public safety; might as well just form a circular firing squad and have done with it.  Perhaps if the local police are not supportive, a means should be found to change that paradigm before posting armed sentries in public settings, in defiance of them.

Those of us who, unlike our federal government, acknowledge that Islamic jihadists are waging war against us anticipate further incidents like what just happened in Chattanooga. Just as civil aviation has not been successfully targeted since 9/11, we may not see another attack on a military recruiting office. But soft targets abound, in a society enamored of “gun-free zones.” If the next ISIS-inspired attack is on a school, where under federal law no one can be armed except, perhaps, the lone school resource officer, the outcome will be far more horrific than what we saw in Chattanooga. In the aftermath – it’s almost too much to hope that Americans will anticipate this threat and act to deter or defeat it before it is executed – the need for citizen involvement will be even more acute.

This is why it is important that Oath Keepers, and other concerned, responsible citizens get this right. If private citizens stepping up to this security challenge cannot act safely and responsibly; if they overreact or misjudge a potential threat, and cause or contribute to the loss of innocent lives; if they make themselves a radical armed fringe group acting without the endorsement of their communities and local governments – then the concept of armed citizens contributing to public safety will be discredited, perhaps fatally. Those who sound alarms now at the government’s identification of ‘militia’ groups as potential terrorists or enemies of civil order “ain’t seen nothing yet,” compared to the reaction that will inevitably follow a botched extra-legal operation that sees citizens hurt or killed, and the armed citizens led away in handcuffs.

In at least one state, the Oath Keepers chapter is getting it right: they are quietly coordinating with recruiting offices, and planning to maintain a low-profile armed presence in the vicinity, of citizens with concealed carry permits, carrying concealed handguns only, and within their rights and the strictures of state and local statutes.  They will wear or carry pre-arranged identifiers to assist themselves, the recruiters, and first responders in telling good guys from bad guys, and they will coordinate closely with local law enforcement to allay police concerns and further ensure no misidentification and “blue-on-blue” engagements. We hope that the vetting process represented by state concealed-carry permit laws will be strengthened by an internal review of volunteers’ state of training – and state of mind.

Full disclosure: I am a principal at Pulse Firearms Training, Inc., where we have been wrestling for some time with these issues, and have created a training program that goes well beyond individual firearms training to address the thorny problems of creating private security networks to defend businesses, churches, schools, neighborhoods, and communities when the social contract with the state proves inadequate – when police response is delayed or inadequate because of budget, manning, or politics (consider Detroit for the emerging pattern). We certainly have no monopoly on good ideas, but this is what we urge, for the Oath Keepers and for any citizens facing today’s metastasizing threats:

  • Get training. Real training. Yes, we have a vested interest in training. It’s why we created our business. Anyone who thinks guns, ammo and training, and the skills and discretion to apply them safely, legally, and effectively can be had for free – will get what they pay for. And the rest of us will pay the ultimate price with our own freedom and security.
  • Organize, plan, vet your people, coordinate with lawful authority, and act within the law.
  • Identify the threat. Read the Edmund Burke quotes above, and think long and hard about treating government – at any level – as the threat. Just as our Founding Fathers did, we can conceive of that terrible possibility, and honor our oaths to prevent it, but it is not here, and it is not now. There are many people across the sea, across the southern border, and among us – who regularly demonstrate their desire to put your severed head on a pike, and they are not your fellow Americans, in or out of government. “Aim small, miss small.”
  • For this reason, we refuse to endorse or sanction “operations,” “missions,” or “calls to action” that go beyond defending your own life and property, or those of your closest family, friends, and associates by means firmly within the law. Going beyond that is a very risky proposition and must be approached with great caution and discretion – if at all.
  • Indeed, far more likely – and imminent – than the possibility of government becoming a danger to your liberty that cannot be addressed through civil, political process, is what we already see beginning to happen. Government’s ability to ensure your safety may simply degrade to the point where nobody is there to enforce the laws when you need them – at the point of contact. At that point, when self-reliance emerges as a necessity rather than an indulgence or an ideology, successful precedents may lead the authorities to see the wisdom of our building self-reliant networks, and to remove legal impediments to our doing so.

Good heart is not enough; American patriots have that in great measure. It is vital that armed citizens establish those precedents – earn the confidence of society and the authorities – by acting in a disciplined and judicious manner.

ISIS entertains

You really can’t make this up. “May Allah guide your bullets” (because of course we don’t aim); “We knew that the target was protected. Our intention was to show how easy we give our lives for the Sake of Allah” (because we are just too easy to thwart with one alert cop); “This is the Golden Era, everyone who believes… is running for Shaheed” (because achieving ‘martyrdom’ is the one thing we’re really good at).

Mock them; but watch for them. They may be stupid, but they are undoubtedly serious.

Listen to what they tell you

. . . as Hitler said, “I don’t need you, for I already own your children.”   When those children self-declare themselves to be our enemies, we should listen.  And we should appreciate the power and millennial appeal of the ideology that mobilizes them:

“Children in Mosul Preach Jihad in ISIS Video,” MEMRI, April 22, 2015:

In a video released by ISIS on April 20, children are shown preaching Jihad. In it a teenager says: “The cry of faith has become loud inside us, and with it, we shall smash the heads of the infidels” and a young boy says: “Do not let yourselves be tempted into staying away [from Jihad], for you will be trampled underfoot by the Christians and the Jews.”

Song: “Oh my nation, I bring you the good tidings that we have crossed the borders. On our land, no (sign) is left of the (borders) delineated by the offspring of pigs and apes. Oh my nation, I bring you the good tidings.”

Speaker: “Blessings upon Allah, the Strong and the Steadfast, and blessings upon (the Prophet Muhammad), who was sent with the sword as a mercy to all worlds.”

If you think we’ve got it bad

The linked article in National Review presents the take of Stratfor’s George Friedman on the rapidly worsening situation in Europe; and no, he’s not talking about the Euro and the Grexit.

Understanding Vladimir Putin’s motivations, and predicting what’s next in simmering Central Europe, is attracting a lot of attention, at least among folks that are able to look over their own barricades into the middle distance. Friedman says it’s all about Germany:

“The fighting in Ukraine is thus part of the process of drawing the line between Russia and Germany on the west of the continent, the line that Hitler and Stalin so disastrously failed to draw. Poland and the Baltic republics are likely to be tested next.”

Friedman can be unsettling, and although he makes his share of bad calls, he certainly is refreshing and (sadly) unique in his ability to step out of the news cycle and provide analysis with a historical perspective.

Germany and Russia. Germany – the elephant in the European living room that no European, including practically no German, wants to talk about.

Russia is a dangerous combination of boldness, paranoia, and underlying weakness. Can’t they just accept the demographic inevitable, lay themselves down and die? They were “Godless communists” for so long that they seem unwilling to accept that there is any fate but what we make; and maybe they’re right.

The way the European Union is going, Germany will have a large, hungry, unemployed subject population to conscript soldiers from, since young Germans can’t be bothered. And they have a tradition of alliance with the Turks against Russia. It looks more like a game of Diplomacy all the time. A game which, as I recall, did not include the USA at all.

It’s another bad century to be a Pole. When was the last good one?

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