Texas’ School Marshals Program the First of Its Kind

In a move that will almost certainly be divisive, the state of Texas has just finished training its first class of armed school marshals. The goal is to do for the nation’s public schools what air marshals did for airlines in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

Like air marshals, school marshals are meant to remain anonymous, with only school personnel aware of their identities. Each one is either a teacher or a member of the school’s administrative staff.

The Lesser Evil

For some time now, schools across the country have been investing in tougher measures to prevent life-threatening situations or, should the worst come to pass, ways to ensure that the situation can be dealt with quickly. These have typically included perimeter fences, bulletproof glass, and more advanced security cameras.

In addition, 18 states now allow adults to carry concealed guns on school grounds. But unlike a general concealed carry permit, Texas’ school marshal program is a great deal more structured, with a dedicated – and apparently “rigorous” – training course. In addition, each marshal’s gun is to remain locked up until it’s needed – accessible, but comfortably out of sight. A deterrent, but never a distraction.

The initiative is a product of 2013’s Protection of Texas Children Act, which gives schools the authority to designate their own marshals – as many as one for every 400 students.

Make no mistake: this training is a serious business. Each would-be school marshal must already be a member of the school’s faculty, must possess a concealed carry permit, must pass a psychological evaluation, and is required to attend an 80-hour training program at a certified police academy.

The ideal solution would have been to station a police officer at each school, but such a solution would have been “prohibitively expensive,” said Texas state representative Jason Villalba.

Voice of Dissent

School classroomThere’s no denying that the initiative is a complicated and controversial one. This fact is underscored by the fact that one of the men who wrote the marshal training curriculum, Police Chief Craig Miller, has strong reservations about introducing concealed weapons.

He acknowledges that school shootings, while devastating, are actually exceptionally rare, despite the inevitable media circus and hysteria that follows. Miller says that, following the Sandy Hook shooting, the emphasis was placed on installing more robust physical security devices such as cameras, intercoms, and card readers.

Nevertheless, the marshal training program is not the first of its kind; the 2007 Texas Guardian Plan also allowed school faculty to carry concealed firearms, but placed no restrictions on how many adults could be armed at a given time.

The “Gun-Free” Fallacy

Some people won’t be at all surprised that Texas was first out of the gate with efforts to arm teachers and administrators, while others will question the wisdom of introducing loaded firearms into heretofore “gun-free” zones.

Here’s the thing: if gun-free zones actually worked, we’d never have to deal with mass shootings. Has there ever been a mass shooting that didn’t occur in a gun-free zone?

And, yes, there’s something about this story that brings to mind the phrase “fighting fire with fire,” but let’s try to remember that guns are tools: neither intrinsically good nor evil. They’re implements that you hope you never need, but you’ll be glad to have if the worst should happen.

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Image Credit: Flickr (via Creative Commons)



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