It took police roughly five minutes to respond to 911 calls in Newtown, Conn., when Adam Lanza burst into Sandy Hook Elementary School and began his killing spree.
In response to the shock of the Newtown incident, a group in Kentucky wants to train volunteer school officials to carry weapons in schools to give teachers an immediate way to protect children against violent intruders.
“The saying goes, when seconds count the police are only minutes away,” Joe Kalil, the Kentucky Constable and 737 airline pilot heading up the effort, told TheBlaze.
“That isn’t meant to knock our police, they do wonderful work, but we want to give teachers options to protect our children as soon as a threat is presented,” Kalil said.
Kalil joined with Boone County Sheriff Mike Helmij to start the “POST” — Protecting Our Students and Teachers — which mirrors the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, giving authority for volunteers to brandish weapons among civilians after a short training course.
“We’re talking about volunteers, 5 percent (of the school officials), heavily screened and trained with 55 hours and five days of training,” Kalil said Wednesday at a contentious meeting hosted by the POST organizers to open the topic up for discussion among concerned citizens with opinions on both sides of the debate, according to WLWT-TV.
Kalil said the program will work because it offers a deterrent, an immediate armed response, and thoroughness of training.
“This is a big commitment to volunteer for POST certification, but when it comes to the safety of our children, we feel the investment is definitely worth it, and every elected official I’ve spoken to in Kentucky agrees.”
Dakota Richter, a high school senior, spoke out during the event.
“I am defenseless in school, you know, there is no one there to help me immediately outside of our one of our one school resource office on the first floor, and I think a program like this could change all of that fundamentally,” she said.
Kalil insists the program can work, particularly because it’s so similar to the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, which trains eligible flight crewmembers on the use of firearms, use of force, legal issues, defensive tactics, the psychology of survival and program standard operating procedures.
An Ohio firearms nonprofit group is helping Kalil and the Kentuckians who wish to be qualified. The group pays for tuition, ammunition and lodging for teachers, administrators, and other school staff to attend a 3-day class on how to limit the deaths from a school shooting.
“The response from schools, teachers, administrators and parents has been overwhelming. Districts that had someone in the first class have asked us to train additional people so that all their district’s schools are protected,” Jim Irvine, Buckeye Firearms Association president, told TheBlaze.
“Over 1,600 people have applied for the training … and by the end of this year we will have provided training to over 300 people, and conducted our first “level two” class which will be 24 people who were trained last year, and are currently carrying in schools this year,” he said.
POST program organizers estimate it would cost $2,500 per person to train volunteers at Kentucky ranges.
Individual school boards must decide whether they want school teachers to be armed. Irvine says 30 Ohio school districts have authorized individuals to carry firearms, and says states like Alabama, Texas and Utah have seen several schools approve weapons in the classrooms over the last 10 years.
One Ohio school administrator told TheBlaze her school board approved her and several other individuals to carry on school grounds, knowledge that has been kept under close wraps.
“We don’t want people to know who these individuals are, to maintain their safety so they don’t become targets themselves,” said the administrator, who asked to be referred to as “Joanne” to conceal her identity. “But I’m so glad we’ve approved it — the training we received was really great.”
Some concerned parents say 55 hours of training just isn’t enough to trust teachers with guns around their children. Joanne pointed out that most schools don’t require even close to that number of hours of CPR or first aid training for their teachers.
“It may not seem like a lot of training, but it’s more than CCW [concealed carry weapon] requires, so [the POST program] is going above and beyond to ensure safe training is available,” she said. “In the classes they work on a mindset and present an eye-opening opportunity to think through an active shooter situation.”
Joanne said teachers who carry now in Ohio have passed higher standards for conceal carry than law enforcement has. “The goal is to eliminate as many injuries and killings as possible — to have someone inside the building to get there and respond more quickly could save many lives. Even if it’s three minutes, that leaves a lot of room for injury and death to occur, but if someone is right down the hallway it may make all the difference.”
Kalil and four Kentucky sheriffs hosted a discussion Wednesday night about implementing the POST program in Boone County Schools, and it drew a packed house. See some of the local reaction here from WLWT-TV:
So what do you think? Would you support teachers carrying weapons in schools if they got training that mirrors the Federal Flight Deck Officer training?