Do Guns Make Schools Safer?


For my latest Time Magazine story, I decided to ask this question of people who have actually been in gunfights. Most were police officers or soldiers; virtually all of them believed strongly in gun rights, and many were NRA members. But at the same time, they offered a cautionary warning to school districts considering hiring armed guards or allowing teachers to carry firearms:

“Real gun battles are not Call of Duty,” says Ryan Millbern, who responded to an active-shooter incident and an armed bank robbery among other calls during his decade as a police officer in Colorado.

There’s a reason that NYPD officers only hit their targets 18% of the time in actual gunfights; it is damn hard to do. And it requires highly realistic, simulation training on a regular basis. The kind that most teachers, principals and even security guards will not have the time or money to get.

To understand why it is so hard to perform well in a gunfight, check out the detailed narrative of one veteran police officer’s experience with an active shooter.

Bill Lewinski, a behavioral scientist specializing in law enforcement safety, would prefer we spend our hard-earned money and attention on mental health services—more guidance counselors in schools and better services on the streets, for example. He understands the impulse to put more guns in schools, but he considers it “a band-aid solution” that will do nothing to cure the real problem.

If communities do opt for armed guards or teachers anyway, he says, “We’d better train people well. [Otherwise] mistake-of-fact shootings, accidental shootings, all of those things will occur.”