Arming School Staff - Pros and Cons

By: John Honovich, Published on Dec 21, 2012

This may be one of the most controversial security propositions ever. Many experts argue that arming school staff is vital in responding and mitigating active shooters yet many others feel that is insane, idiotic and crazy. And now, the NRA has endorsed this approach. We believe a strong case can be made for both sides and that the strengths and weaknesses should be carefully analyzed.

Let’s first look at the benefits and rational for arming school staff.

Speed of Incidents vs. Delay in Police Response

The key problem is that the average shooter finishes killing before the average law enforcement can respond, as a study found:

"The average duration of Active Shooter incidents in Institutions of Higher Education within the United States is 12.5 minutes. In contrast, the average response time of campus and local law enforcement to these incidents is 18 minutes."

To minimize or stop casualties, this needs to be reversed. Three fundamental options exist:

  • Detect earlier to get responders moving sooner: This is hard – how soon can you tell until they shoot - and even if you had a magic shooter analytic you would probably not get more than an additional minute of time.
  • Delay longer to give responders more time to arrive: There are some options here to strengthen access controls with restricted entrances, classroom locks, etc. but without fundamentally redesigning schools to be built like prisons, such measures may only delay a shooter for a few minutes (e.g., the Newton gunmen shot through the front gate).
  • Get responders on site quicker:  Significant delays are incurred communicating to a third party and having them coordinate and dispatch a responder who might be miles away. If you had someone on site, instead of responding in 18 minutes, they got easily respond in 8 or 5 minutes – significantly increasing the probability of intercepting before more have been killed.

Closing the Time Gap

On-site response benefits make arming school staff such an attractive proposition. From the perspective of solving this specific security problem, no other option so significantly impacts the ‘detect / delay / response’ equation.

Cost of Implementation

In delivering on-site response, two main options are available, only one of which is likely affordable for most schools:

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

  • Dedicate a new person/employee with appropriate training and weapons who is solely responsible for dealing with such threats.  However, the annual full cost might reach ~$100,000 – a sum that is infeasible to find and hard to rationalize given how statistically rare each incident is.
  • The other alternative is to ‘promote’ existing school staff to add this responsibility. The marginal cost of this is a fraction of adding a new dedicated staff as well as a fraction of sophisticated electronic security systems which cannot respond or intercept a shooter.

This combination – the most likely option to mitigate shootings plus its extreme cost effectiveness – makes this a very rationale option to consider.

Risks of Approach

On the other hand, there are obviously significant risks to the approach:

  • Misuse of weapons: The weapon holders may use this for other incidents that may cause debate or concern. For instance, should the weapon holders be allowed to use them to break up a student fight or to threaten a misbehaving student?
  • Misappropriation of weapons: The weapons may be lost or stolen, leading to causalities or them being used against school staff.
  • Danger to students: Even if the weapon is only ever used against shooters, this could potentially put students at further risk, if the responder misfires or a student gets in the way.
  • Danger to responder: Even if the responder is willing and able to confront the shooter, how literally ‘outgunned’ will they be? Can they survive or stop a shooter who is likely better armored and possessing more powerful weaponry?

The understandable gut reaction is the danger of having the stereotypical caring female school teacher forced to shoot it out against a gunmen. Is it really feasible or advisable to have every Kindergarten teacher ‘packing heat’?

Potential Solution

The most promising solution is to have a very small number of vetted school personnel with extensive prior experience (military, law enforcement, etc.) to be armed. For instance, many larger schools have on site school resource officers that are dedicated to security but only carry non-lethal weapons today (taser, etc.). These would be ideal candidates to upgrade.  Ultimately, even in the most aggressive plan would not need nor want to have lots of school staff armed – just enough that someone could respond within the first few minutes.

Objections to Gun Proliferation

Many find this proposition particularly absurd given the role of guns causing these attacks in the first place. They believe that the only real solution is to reduce the number of goods, not increase it by arming more people.

Perhaps the best long term solution is tighter overall gun control, however, that does not help security professionals in the field today who need the best practical solutions to increase protection immediately.


Dismissing the proposition as simply being crazy misses the core operational problems inherent. It is absolutely critical to have an armed responder intercept the shooter as soon as possible. To that end, arming school staff meets this goal. On the other hand, huge risks exist in doing so with the potential for far more ongoing problems.

However, given the high likelihood of future attacks, many schools will, and likely should, give serious consideration to an organized, tightly controlled plan to arm a limited number of school staff as it is the most direct and high probability approach to save lives during these attacks.

Comments : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

ZeroEyes Gun Detection Startup on Jul 16, 2019
A gun detection video analytics startup, ZeroEyes, is being led by a group of 6 former Navy SEALs, aiming to "save lives" by using AI to assist...
Maglock Selection Guide on May 16, 2019
One of the most misunderstood yet valuable pieces of electrified hardware is the maglock. Few locks are stronger, but myths and confusion surround...
The Benefits of An Access Control Test Door on Jun 08, 2018
Security system dealers can benefit from having their own access control test door both for demonstrations and training. Inside, we explain the...
Stats: Disclosing Vulnerabilities Responsibility? Researcher or Manufacturer on Mar 30, 2018
Getting prompt and appropriate information on vulnerabilities is important for integrators and end users to ensure that their systems are best...
Deep Learning Tutorial For Video Surveillance on Oct 17, 2017
Deep learning is a growing buzzword within physical security and video surveillance. But what is 'deep learning'? In this tutorial, we explain...
Dome Versus Turret Camera Usage Statistics 2017 on Aug 07, 2017
Turret cameras are a growing segment within video surveillance. Indeed, many integrators argued strongly for turrets in an IPVM...
Camera Vandalism Statistics on Aug 01, 2017
Vandalized cameras are a common concern. And when they happen, they often draw media attention. But how often and how much of a problem is...
Top 5 Improvements For Manufacturer Sales People on Jun 28, 2017
Manufacturer sales people are very important to integrators, but it takes more than just punching a clock to be successful and truly valuable to...
School Touts 3 Benefits of Video Surveillance on Dec 22, 2016
Many think primarily about video surveillance in schools as primarily a security tool and unfortunately as part of a program to respond to school...
Banned: Classroom Barricade Locks on Apr 14, 2016
In this age of classroom shootings, many are looking for barricade locks - a cheap and easy stopgap to bolster door security.   Critics condemn...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Hikvision Illicitly Uses Back To The Future In Marketing on Jul 03, 2020
NBCUniversal told IPVM that Hikvision UK's ongoing coronavirus marketing campaign using NBCUniversal's assets was not allowed. Hikvision mass...
Verkada: "IPVM Should Never Be Your Source of News" on Jul 02, 2020
Verkada was unhappy with IPVM's recent coverage declaring that reading IPVM is 'not a good look' and that 'IPVM should never be your source of...
Vintra Presents FulcrumAI Face Recognition on Jul 02, 2020
Vintra presented its FulcrumAI face recognition and mask detection offering at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. Inside this report: A...
Uniview Wrist Temperature Reader Tested on Jul 02, 2020
Uniview is promoting measuring wrist temperatures whereas most others are just offering forehead or inner canthus measurements. But how well does...
Dahua USA Admits Thermal Solutions "Qualify As Medical Devices" on Jul 02, 2020
Dahua USA has issued a press release admitting a controversial point in the industry but an obvious one to the US FDA, that the thermal temperature...
Access Control Online Show - July 2020 - With 40+ Manufacturers - Register Now on Jul 01, 2020
IPVM is excited to announce our July 2020 Access Control Show. With 40+ companies presenting across 4 days, this is a unique opportunity to hear...
Hanwha Face Mask Detection Tested on Jul 01, 2020
Face mask detection or, more specifically lack-of-face-mask detection, is an expanding offering in the midst of coronavirus. Hanwha in partnership...
UK Government Says Fever Cameras "Unsuitable" on Jul 01, 2020
The UK government's medical device regulator, MHRA, told IPVM that fever-seeking thermal cameras are "unsuitable for this purpose" and recommends...
Camera Course Summer 2020 on Jun 30, 2020
This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based on in-depth product and technology testing. Lots of manufacturer training...
Worst Over But Integrators Still Dealing With Coronavirus Problems (June Statistics) on Jun 30, 2020
While numbers of integrators very impacted by Coronavirus continue to drop, most are still moderately dealing with the pandemic's problems, June...