The $40 Security Solution for Colorado Schools—That Would Actually Work

We don’t need Wayne LaPierre’s crazy and expensive idea for Congress “to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation.”

Colorado law already allows schools to invite those with lawfully permitted concealed handguns into their halls—if schools do it the right way.

Statute 18-12-214 (in Part 2 of Article 12) states:

(1) (a) A permit to carry a concealed handgun authorizes the permittee to carry a concealed handgun in all areas of the state, except as specifically limited in this section. . . .

(3) A permit issued pursuant to this part 2 does not authorize a person to carry a concealed handgun onto the real property, or into any improvements erected thereon, of a public elementary, middle, junior high, or high school; except that:

(b) A permittee who is employed or retained by contract by a school district as a school security officer may carry a concealed handgun onto the real property, or into any improvement erected thereon, of a public elementary, middle, junior high, or high school while the permittee is on duty . . .

Obviously this law does not apply to private schools, only to “public” ones. So private schools may already invite armed administrators, teachers, parents, and guests to carry concealed handguns on campus. What about “public” schools?

Colorado law allows “public” schools to bring in “security officers” “retained by contract” by the district. The law is non-specific as to how much a security officer must be paid. So my plan is simply for a school to hire 40 (or so) concealed-carry permit holders—parents, retired police officers, military veterans, etc.—at a dollar each per year, to take shifts patrolling the school. I pulled 40 out of the air because that would enable two people to take a shift for a single day each month. Essentially this would be a volunteer service, but the participants would be officially declared “contracted security officers” for purposes of complying with the law.

A better solution would be to revise the law giving individual “public” schools the authority to allow those with concealed carry permits to carry their handguns into schools. Even better would be to allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to carry their handgun into any “public” school—as Utah already allows.

Of course, I am a big advocate of good training (such as my father Linn provides in Grand Junction) for everyone who carries a concealed handgun.

We all know that allowing more responsible adults to carry their concealed handguns into the schools would make schools safer. Even leftists who decry the idea know that it would work. (That said, we ought not lose context about this; the chances of being victimized by a mass murderer at a school remain extremely low, despite the high-profile atrocities.) We all also know that Colorado’s “public” schools probably will not allow more responsible adults to carry their guns inside the schools. The politics simply won’t allow it—even though it would obviously improve safety at minimal cost.

Update: As has become evident in the comments, obviously willing and trained teachers and administrators could be declared “security officers” as well. Indeed, if ONLY teachers and administrators were allowed to carry concealed handguns in their schools, that would be a huge help, again for minimal expense.

Image: Wikipedia

  • http://twitter.com/John_R_Shepard John Shepard

    Excellent idea, your $40 solution. Allowing concealed carry would be even better. Get rid of the delusion that “gun free zones” provide safety. Better for someone with criminal intent to wonder just who might be armed.

  • LaurieB

    Excellent idea Ari.

  • Anthony

    Please no. $40 wouldn’t even pay for a single background check, let alone the required training I’d want before allowing someone to carry a gun into my child’s school. And beyond that, I’m not sure what kind of people you expect to be able and willing to do this job for free. The old? The disabled? The unemployed?

    I might need to make up Three Debate Tips for Those Calling for Fewer Gun Restrictions. Number 1 on the list will be to not assume that every single person with a concealed-carry permit is a responsible adult.

  • ariarmstrong

    Dear Anthony, On the off chance that you’re actually interested in learning the relevant facts, I’ll mention that concealed carry permit holders already go through a background check, which they themselves pay for. As for the number of volunteers, we won’t know until schools allow them in. I suspect many schools would have to establish waiting lists. And, even if schools implemented additional standards, the cost would still be very low, whereas the safety benefit would be very high. Would you not even allow teachers already on the school’s payroll to also serve as “security officers?” We’re already trusting those individuals with the students.

  • Mel_M

    Nice idea. However, I doubt the $40 would be the whole cost. There’d be, at least, insurance costs just as with any other solution.

    Quote from an msnbc news story, — Armed Guards, Locked doors: US Schools Seek Security — about what ideas schools are considering now:

    Even before the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre said Friday that armed police should be placed in schools, guards with guns were posted at all 14 schools in Butler, Pa.

    A lot of money is going to be spent upgrading physical security. There are plenty of ideas coming forward and I expect some of them will even end up being included in the design of new school buildings. The story is well worth reading.

    Physical security (Wikipedia) is a big topic and a profession; guards are just part of it. Amateurs may be recruited, but they should have certified security training (by whom?) and a thorough background check before going on the job; ie, this is no place for amateurs even if they do know how to handle a gun. Another issue would be about what they are expected to do. For example, if security cameras are placed around the school and internal to the school, somebody will need to monitor those cameras. There are also issues of how many guards, how many and what types of guns,… Then too, if guards come face to face with the intruders, the situation is grave; better to stop them from getting into the building. Since these schools are public, I’d also expect that the security personnel would come under some sort of a police function and not be subject to the CC system. As I see it, the only place school security touches gun-control is whether or not to allow non-security-function guns onto school property. Since CC guns would represent another point of potential failure, I’d have to be convinced that it has enough value to be worth it. Of course, every gun in a school is a potential failure point; guns are a risk; completely unexpected stuff happens.

    And what if the monsters figure out new weapons: safe looking vehicles loaded with explosives, for example? The new fast response system the police are using means that the killers aren’t going to have much time; they may look to quicker ways of doing what they want; they’ll adapt.

  • Anthony

    I’m not sure why you have to begin with an attack on me. I am interested in learning the relevant facts. I’m also aware that concealed carry permit holders go through a background check. I’m further aware that not all background checks are equal, and what’s suitable for a concealed carry permit is not suitable to carry a gun into my child’s school.

    As to your question, yes, I would allow teachers already on the school’s payroll to carry concealed weapons, after undergoing a training program specific to the situations they are likely to find themselves in.

    But I disagree with you about the cost/safety benefit of allowing any-old concealed-carry holder into our schools while carrying weapons. I think you’re overlooking the potential hazards, as well as overestimating the “safety benefit”. Mass school shootings are incredibly rare. And apart from dealing with a one-in-a-million mass shooting, allowing untrained volunteers to patrol our schools with weapons, is likely to do more harm than good.

  • Mel_M

    I believe that healthy retired police and military would provide the necessary people, but this would need to be proven out district by district. Of course, the costs of physical enhancements has already started and I think it’s a safe bet that they will continue.

    It surely is important to keep out the flakes and the generally unfit. Also, they should have whatever professional training is needed to carry out their assignments in the context of school security. As assignments, physical security, and technology change, additional training would be needed. I certainly would want to see a security staff of skilled people; a bunch of folks feeling enthusiastic about supporting the kids isn’t enough.

    In states without CC or people without CC permits, background checks would be needed for sure, and, perhaps an additional check when starting at a school would be a good idea; Ari would know way more than I about that. In any case, it wouldn’t be a show-stopper.

  • Mel_M

    Ari,

    About CC permits: I don’t know any details. So, do these, at least in some states, have to be periodically renewed or subject to periodic background checks? How much do these checks cost? Would it be too expensive for those who’re using the CC permit professionally — what’s being done in your idea — to get background checks every few years: 1 year or 2 years or 5 years maybe? I think an issue the might come up is whether the CC background check is good enough for use in schools. Whether to leverage an existing CC system or to disconnect school security from it is, for me, an open question; the $40 idea could go forward in either case.

  • Anthony

    There are 1,800 public schools in Colorado. There are 140,000 concealed weapons permit holders in Colorado. 1,800 times 40 equals 72,000.

    I don’t think you’d even get the 40 people per school if you opened it up to all concealed weapons permit holders. Limit it to healthy retired police and military, and you’re talking about an even smaller population.

    And now this is starting to sound a lot like Wayne LaPierre’s “crazy and expensive” idea, only without the expense, which I guess makes it “crazy and unrealistic”.

    Actually, limit it to healthy retired police and military, and not just any concealed weapons holder willing to sign up, and I don’t think it’s crazy, just unrealistic. But limit it to healthy retired police and military, and my response is not “please no”, but “feel free to try it”.

    My problem with Ari’s proposal is not that it is unrealistic. It’s that I believe it would make matters worse. At least, worse 99.9999% of the time, when there isn’t a mass shooting going on at the school.

  • ariarmstrong

    Dear Anthony, Your point about the relative rarity of school shootings is well-taken. Still, many concealed carry holders could also volunteer to do other cool stuff, such as tutor, while they’re at the school. I don’t see a need for additional background checks. I judge the potential harms to be minuscule, and the security increase to be substantial. Realistically, I think there’s a much greater chance of getting through CCW for teachers than for outsiders, so I think there’s room for agreement here. If we could agree on trained teachers and administrators, plus off-duty and retired police officers, that would be a great start, I think. Thanks for your well-considered comments…

  • ariarmstrong

    Dear Anthony, I continue to fail to see how there’s any serious risk that having a couple concealed carry volunteers at a school could make matters worse. Your numbers are interesting, and certainly the program would be limited to the number of volunteers. However, if this option were on the table, I think a lot of people (including a lot of teachers, if they were in the pool) would get a permit just for this purpose. Morever, even if there weren’t enough people for two per school per day, even one person a couple (random) days a week would make a difference, especially if the program were publicized. There is a deterrence value, which is the main value. The main value of the program is not to STOP a mass murderer, but to convince a mass murderer the attempt is futile, before he tries it.

  • Mel_M

    FYI,

    Well, I switched over to check the new and there’s a video story at msnbc about a school in Texas that’s had CC for teachers for 5 years. The school is remote and small and they can’t afford an armed guard. Help is too far away; so the context provided the problem and drove the solution.

    The video story says that 10 states are now looking into the idea of allowing teachers and administrators to have guns at school. I haven’t thought much about this; I’m just reporting.

  • Mel_M

    Anthony,

    Limiting the $40 idea to CC permit carriers is not what I thought of as essential to Ari’s idea. It would have no chance at all in states w/o CC. Also, I surely wouldn’t be looking at just CC permit holders. If it’s feasible to leverage a state’s CC system (adequate gun training and background checks) then fine. Particularly for guards, there will be (or should be anyway), sooner or later, serious standards. I really don’t think school security has to be connected to the gun-control issue.

    About making matters worse, I too can see that as an issue. Guns are a risk and unexpected things happen, people get sloppy, and bad guys slip through the checks. I don’t expect a system that never fails. As I can see just from today’s news, however, guards are being hired, and some states are considering allowing teachers to have CC guns. We will shortly be in a context where experience on the ground will become a huge factor in what should be done next. And, that experience is going to be looked at from a local perspective rather than a national aggregate perspective; it’s not a herd issue. If one area’s experience with armed guards is great, they’ll want to keep it no matter how the stats for the nation look. Even on cost, some might regard the aggregate cost as too much, but a given district may say: “We don’t care; we’re willing to pay the price.” Just looking at what’s going on now, people realize that every town has nuts in it and they feel naked and vulnerable even if the chance of a Sandy Hook type tragedy is small. Really, a lot, but not all, security is personal or local. Anyway, I can’t answer your concern about making matters worse, and it looks like we are going to figure it out from the experience of schools.

  • Anthony

    Are the Colorado police part of a union? If so, I doubt they’re allowed to do unpaid work guarding a school while off-duty. Even the retired ones are probably under pressure, if not contractual agreement, not to take jobs away from their former colleagues by doing so.

    Also, the teachers’ union will probably have something to say about having untrained volunteers come in and tutor students, during school hours, for free.

    As for the harms, I’ll address that above.

    As for trained teachers and administrators, I actually think it’s a travesty that we don’t allow them to carry weapons to school, if they choose to do so (and undergo at least some job-specific training).

  • Anthony

    I know a lot of teachers, and not a single one of them would be interested in carrying a weapon to school. Now that’s not scientific, but so far as I can tell neither is your speculation on the matter.

    Anyway, I think the risks are obvious, especially in the middle and high schools, many of which already have officers anyway just to deal with the many problems other than mass school shootings. Anyway, the risks include parents with grudges, vigilantes, racists, people without much experience in dealing with confrontational situations, people without experience in using weapons in highly populated areas. And that’s assuming you weed out those whose past behavior did not rise to the level of prohibiting them from a “shall issue” concealed weapons permit, but nonetheless whose past behavior would prohibit them from working with children.

    If someone comes into the school with an AR-15, using it against anyone that comes into his path, pretty much any armed volunteer is going to help or at least not hurt. In general though, I think the presence of unpaid rent-a-cops in our schools is going to do more harm than good.

    I understand you don’t want taxpayer money going into this. And ultimately I think we both agree with the real solution – get rid of public schools. But in the meantime, I think allowing untrained volunteers with weapons access to our schools will do more harm than good.

  • Mel_M

    Anthony,

    Whether or not the CC background check is reliable and thorough enough for schools is a question I have, and I truly don’t know the answer. You say that it’s not suitable; could you sketch out your reasons for saying that? When it comes down to legislation, states with CC in place, will have to specify that the CC is good enough or that another more rigorous background check be used. States w/o CC would have to specify a background check based on some existing one or specify a new one.

  • Anthony

    What do you see as essential to the idea? Wayne LaPierre’s idea was disregarded as “crazy and expensive”. Get rid of the part about concealed weapons permit-holders, and Ari’s idea is just LaPierre’s idea without paying anyone anything (and even LaPierre’s idea included utilizing trained volunteers).

    Anyway, the statistic I read is that 1/3 of schools currently have armed officers in them. I believe it’s mostly middle schools and high schools. I’m not sure it makes sense to expand this to elementary schools – there probably isn’t enough for them to do to make this a full-time job.

    As for teachers carrying weapons, I think they’re entitled to it as a matter of self-defense, without even going into the issue of it making the school safer. I think it would also make the school somewhat safer, but I’m not sure how much.

  • Anthony

    As far as criminal background, getting a concealed weapon basically means not having been convicted of a felony (you can find the specific rules in detail online). To work with children, especially to work with children in a school while carrying a weapon, you’re going to want to at least inquire into misdemeanor criminal history, and some crimes, like misdemeanor sexual exploitation of a child or misdemeanor sexual assault of a child, might be immediately disqualifying.

  • Mel_M

    I saw the essential idea that Ari was proposing to be using volunteers exclusively — no on-duty police officers or expensive security guard companies — therefore getting a very cheap security staff. It looks like some (maybe lots of?) schools already don’t see Wayne LaPierre’s idea as crazy or too expensive.

    I’m wondering too, if some people who hate guns are getting school security entangled in the gun-control debate. The two issues have some common concerns, but I think they are two quite different issues. We could repeal the 2nd amendment and still have armed security in schools.

  • ariarmstrong

    What I called crazy and expensive was LaPierre’s call for the U.S. Congress to appropriate federal tax money to pay to put armed police officers in every school. I agreed with parts of what LaPierre said.

  • Mel_M

    Anthony,

    Thanks. Surely, I would want to see the things you mentioned. I also think that any police history should be looked at: drunkenness, drug use, domestic violence calls, traffic accidents (too many of them), fights,…anything that shows an unreliable or unstable character.

  • Mel_M

    ari,

    Okay, this smacks of imposing a single solution all across the country; if states can get money from the feds, they will almost certainly take that route. I don’t like that at all. It’ll be another altruist herd solution with waste and corruption. I like what I’m reading today about districts taking on the problem of school security and working out their own ideas. But, if a lot of districts go for the expensive armed guard solution, I fully expect the feds to come up with a money bill.

    Another thing that’s going to be trouble is the blaming of violence on various media. This looks like it’s gaining traction. I read a comment yesterday by a guy who was bashing video games by pointing out the the military trains people by video games.

    The amount of hysteria out there is incredible. I find it interesting too that almost none of the many many gun-control advocates commenting bother to even state what they want. Some look like they’d repeal the 2nd amendment, but they don’t say so. I’m not sure I ever chimed in with “what do you want?”; it just seemed useless to do so. With some people, ya just know they’re not going to listen to anything you say.

  • Mel_M

    Anthony,

    in the msnbc news video I mentioned near the top, there are now 10 states considering arming teachers. I don’t know what the details are but, surprising as it is, there is movement along that line.

    For my part, I don’t want any untrained people in the schools. If they’re volunteers, I don’t think there should be a big deal about spending some money to train them.

  • Anthony

    I’m largely in agreement with you, Mel.

    One thing to note, though (and maybe this should be number two on the list of Three Debate Tips for Those Calling for Fewer Gun Restrictions), is that it’s not necessary to repeal the 2nd Amendment to render it inapplicable. It’s only four years ago that the 2nd Amendment was held to recognize an individual right, and it’s only two years ago that it was held to apply to the states. The rest of its 221-year history, including when I went through my Constitutional Law class just a decade ago, the 2nd Amendment did little other than enable states to set up a well regulated militia.

    I don’t know if Ari is honest about his “Three Debate Tips” (personally I find them to be rather obvious). But as someone who believes that our current gun laws are at least approximately right, I’m very much serious and honest about wanting to see improvement in the arguments of both sides.

  • Anthony

    I don’t think expecting volunteers to do the job of the police is a realistic solution. Not on a national level, anyway. Maybe it might work in some areas. Some areas still have volunteer firefighters. Some have volunteer sheriff’s deputies. And most areas will probably see a short and temporary surge in individuals willing to do this sort of thing.

    Longer term, and in most areas, I’d say a more realistic solution, if you want to do things without spending any taxpayer dollars, is to collect donations and to pay the officers.

    Even then I think you’re only going to have a short term surge in interest, though. These types of issues are extremely rare. Speaking for myself as a parent of a Kindergarten student, I’d rather the donated money and/or volunteer efforts be spent on education rather than in preventing the one-in-million chance that my son might get killed by a mass shooter. If that extra educator, maybe a roaming assistant, is trained in dealing with a mass shooter, and is permitted to carry a weapon for very limited purposes such as this, so much the better. I don’t think I’d make it a job requirement, which would preclude others, though. (To take care of an entire school, it’s important that the educator not be tied to one classroom, because in a lockdown presumably the teachers will be responsible for the safety of their students, and explicitly not for venturing out into the halls trying to defuse an unknown situation. On the other hand, this makes it easier for the next Adam Lanza to take out those roaming staff members first, which is exactly what he did.)

    Of course in the very long term, I’m sure all three of us agree with the proper solution. Get rid of public schools. Let parents choose if they want their Kindergartner to go to a school with a paid armed guard, with an extra teacher, with both at a higher price, with neither at a lower price. And let them choose whether or not they want to send their child to a school where they “allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to carry their handgun”. I know for sure I wouldn’t choose yes on that last option.

  • Anthony

    (I realize, of course, that none of those roaming staff members were armed. Had they been, things might have turned out differently. Then again, they might not have, especially if Lanza knew who was armed or potentially armed. That’s perhaps tip number three in my Three Debate Tips for Those Calling for Fewer Gun Restrictions. A concealed weapons holder with a handgun doesn’t always win against a monster with an AR-15. That s/he doesn’t always lose either is a tip for the other list, of course.)

  • http://twitter.com/John_R_Shepard John Shepard

    On Twitter Michael Moore stated: “I favor repealing the 2nd amendment. We repealed the Prohibition amendment. The 2nd amendment is not relevant today unless u use a musket.”

    https://twitter.com/MMFlint/status/282341081100738560

    So, at least some would like to repeal the 2nd amendment and say so explicitly.

  • http://twitter.com/John_R_Shepard John Shepard

    Behind this current debate there’s a more fundamental issue. “Gun Control: Controlling the Government’s Guns” by George Reisman: http://georgereismansblog.blogspot.com/2012/08/gun-control-controlling-governments-guns.html

  • Mel_M

    John,

    Well, I have to give credit to MM for being specific about his gun control goal. I’m assuming that he means a complete ban on guns in private hands. I don’t know if he’d include professional security people in that or not. Looking ahead to the gun control issue, I think it might be useful to make a distinction between gun ownership and gun use.

    As I pointed out on the prior thread, AR had not fully worked out a solution and I haven’t either. So far, every time I think about it, I end up in a conflict between two goals: one is to put the legitamate use of force under objective control by the government and the other is what I believe to be the right to use lethal force in self defense. (I’m even willing to consider that, in ths case, regulation is legitamate and, in theory, required.) The reaserch someone did into AR’s unfinished thinking on this is quite interesting and I suggest reading it. I had recalled that AR didn’t have a full answer and it turned out that I was correct. It looks to me that AR ended up in the same unresolved conflict as I did. I’m interested in a zero based look at the gun control issue.

  • Mel_M

    Anthony,

    Interesting points about the 2nd amendment. I think most people would see the repeal of the 2nd amendment as equivalent to a ban on private ownership of guns.

    Yes, improvement in the arguments is needed!!! My personal decision on gun control was not made with a look at it based on the fundamental issues involved. As I mentioned in my reply to John, I end up in the same conflict as AR seems to have had and I’m tired of it. Now looks like a good time for a zero-based reevaluation.

    My comment in the prior thread about someone’s careful research into AR’s lack of a fully worked out answer is worth reading. I gave a link to the online research article and it’s a fairly quick read. AR saw gun control as a complex issue in the philosophy of law and she didn’t have a big interest in it. As I mentioned to John, in this case, maybe regulation is theoretically necessary as the only way of resolving the conflict. For example, for gov to put its own use of force under objective control, it must use thorough background checks. Perhaps, to attain the same goal, the same thing should apply to guns in private hands; ie, buying guns should not be treated the same as buying other consumer items. Just mulling outloud…I have no proof.

  • Mel_M

    John,

    Let me point out that, from the AR quotes given in the link I gave in the prior thread, AR would disagree with Reusman about guns in private hands being able to save us from dictatorship. A dictatorship is going to be, at least initially, popular. It would be able to confiscate guns. The “inequality” between gov weaponry and that of individuals is also growing worse: they now have far better communications and things like armed drones. To overthrow a ruthlees dictatorship, I think we’d need breakaway military units and smuggled guns. Ie, an armed population being able to go toe toe to toe with a dictatorship is getting less realistic all the time. I’m going to look at gun control only from the viewpoint of personal protection.

  • Anthony

    From a legal perspective I would argue that a repeal of the Second Amendment would actually have no effect whatsoever. But that’s a complicated legal argument, and certainly any successful effort to repeal the Second Amendment would come along with a successful effort to defeat such an argument. In any case, if you’re interested in the legal argument, I’d strongly suggest reading McDonald v. Chicago, including at least the concurring opinions, and the dissents are quite educational as well. It is a recent case, but the opinions go through the historical interpretations along with making new precedents.

    In any case, there are two points. First off, I can’t imagine the Second Amendment being repealed, at least not without an outright civil war.

    But secondly, and I think this is more relevant, my point above is that the Second Amendment can be effectively repealed simply by replacing one justice on the US Supreme Court. McDonald v. Chicago (2010) was a 5-4 decision. District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) was a 5-4 decision. Before those decisions the Second Amendment was basically interpreted to mean that state law overrides federal law when it comes to the regulation of militias.

    Anyway, that’s (a bit of) the legal issue. There’s also the issue of rights, and there’s the related issue of what Ayn Rand said about them.

    On this, I think it’s relevant that when Rand talked about issues that needed to be resolved with regard to gun rights, she talked about handguns. I really don’t have much doubt about how Rand would have thought about unrestricted rights to machine guns and rocket launchers. I think she would have dismissed those who advocate for such freedoms as libertarian hippies and anarchists.

    Unfortunately, she was never explicit about that. And there are others who are as sure as I am, about almost the exact opposite.

  • Mel_M

    McDonald v. Chicago looks like a good way to catch up on the meaning of the 2nd amendment. Thanks.

    Yes, I doubt that Rand would legalize machine guns and rocket launchers. But, if one were under lethal attack and had these handy, I think she would say “use them.”

    When Ari starts a thread on gun control itself, I hope he will start from scratch on the issue and, in that spirit, refer to the online research article on Rand’s gun control statements. There’s more there than the conclusion that Rand didn’t have a fully worked out answer.

    On Ari’s school security idea, I ended up thinking it’s ok to go with it so long as the volunteers are adequately trained in handling a gun, adequately trained in the specifics of school security, and pass a background check that looks at the full police record and maybe the military record too. A person needs training not only to do a good job in carrying out the mission but to stay alive while doing it. About allowing any CC people to come in to a school, it seems to me that a young nut without a criminal record could get a CC permit and come in if he otherwise has some reason to be there, so, no on that part of it.

  • wakalix

    Here’s a US Today article about the town in Texas that allows qualified teachers to be armed:

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/12/20/texas-town-teachers-guns/1781663/

    Thanks for mentioning it.