Educators Fear And Embrace Calls For Concealed Carry In The Classroom
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
President Trump has touted the idea of teachers carrying concealed guns in classrooms. The response has been sharply divided. But it's already happening in a handful of states, including Ohio. From WCPN Ideastream in Cleveland, Annie Wu takes us through a training session where some teachers are learning how to use weapons in school.
ANNIE WU, BYLINE: Drive down an inconspicuous dirt road beside the train tracks in the small town of Rittman, Ohio. And there, beyond a metal garage-like classroom, more than a dozen teachers are standing in a line, poised with guns in hand.
CHRIS CERINO: All right, shooters. This line is hot for 12 rounds from the high ready. So draw your guns.
WU: They're here as part of the FASTER program funded by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation. The state is also kicking in $175,000 over the next two years.
CERINO: Cease fire. De-cock and holster.
WU: Chris Cerino is a former police officer and law enforcement trainer who prepares teachers and staff in case of an active shooter. For the past five years, FASTER has trained more than 1,300 teachers and staff across 12 states.
CERINO: We teach them about target and backstop. We give them good marksmanship skills. We talk to them about closing the distances, using cover. And we also talk to them about not shooting when they shouldn't or can't.
WU: In Ohio, any school board can give permission to carry a firearm into normally gun-free schools. Those decisions are often made behind closed doors because they're part of a district's confidential safety plan. The Buckeye Firearms Foundation's Jim Irvine says it's not just teachers with guns. It's principals, nurses and maintenance people. And he says it's strictly voluntary.
JIM IRVINE: No one should ever be forced to carry a gun. It's something you have got to want to do because if you don't want to do it, you're not going to embrace it with the right mindset and the right attitude to do it properly.
WU: That mindset includes the possibility that children could be injured in crossfire or that the active shooter could be one of the teacher's own students. On day two, trainer Andrew Blubaugh is showing the group how to use a small window on a classroom door to check for a threat and how to restrain the shooter if he's caught.
ANDREW BLUBAUGH: What's great about you guys is when we start talking about the element of surprise, they're not expecting a teacher. They're looking for uniformed officers. That's what they're going to be cued in on. So you have the element of surprise.
WU: Most of those getting trained here don't want to be identified. They don't want others to know they're carrying because a shooter could target them first. Keith Countryman is superintendent of Hicksville schools in northwest Ohio, and he carries a concealed gun.
KEITH COUNTRYMAN: The people that I've chosen to carry - I've instructed them to never have the gun off their body for any reason nor have it shown for any reason unless it's needed in a threatening situation.
WU: Following the shooting in Parkland, Fla., Countryman met with a security team to consider arming more teachers who he says are not paid extra. They decided instead to consider other measures, like adding more cameras outside the building.
COUNTRYMAN: I'm not just going to go around and hand guns out. Hey, go get your concealed carry, and you can carry a gun here at school. That's never going to happen at our school.
WU: Outside Countryman's school in Defiance County is a warning sign that reads, these individuals may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students and staff. The superintendent says he's confident if something happened anywhere in the building, they'd be able to confront the intruder within seconds. For NPR News, I'm Annie Wu.
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