The Need for Defender(s)

Staff Writer
Dallas County News

Anna ISD recently hosted a Town Hall meeting regarding a potential new program called the Defender Program in which teachers would be armed during school. You’ve probably seen this on the news or heard about it over the past week. I was there for the meeting, as were approximately 100 interested community residents, and have had time to sift through the information and form my own opinion regarding teachers carrying weapons.

But first, let’s discuss the Defender Program. There is much more detail to the plan than I will cover here, some of which will most likely change over time if the program ever gets the thumbs-up. The gist of the program is that volunteers, if selected, will go through training to handle their weapons and must be concealed carry license holders in order to qualify. These teachers will be asked to use their weapons for classroom defense only, they will not seek out and engage an active shooter in any situation. They will follow lockdown procedures and be a last line of defense, so to speak, should a shooter try to come into a classroom.

This is really a thumbnail sketch of the program, but it is the basis of the idea. There are definitely things that, as a parent, I like about the program. These volunteer teachers will receive firearm training and further specialized training from law enforcement. They are a last line of defense in a terrible situation that hopefully never comes to pass and will be tasked with protection of students whereas without them there would be no defense.

But there are things about the plan I would ask Anna school board members and administrators to re-consider, two things I consider to be significant flaws in the program. The first deals with practice. As volunteers in the Defender Program, participants are going to be required to commit to monthly target practice to make sure they are proficient when they most need to be. However, the district will only be providing 50 rounds of ammunition for that practice. As someone who shoots frequently, I don’t believe 50 rounds is nearly enough ammo to make sure the last line of defense is ready for the worst. I shoot at least 100-200 rounds every time I go to the range and I would consider myself fairly proficient with a handgun.

The second thing I would change — and to me this is the most dire of the two — is the requirement that either the gun or the loaded magazine be kept separate from each other and in a lockbox that will be kept in the classrooms. I get the safety aspect of this arrangement but the fact is that in a true emergency situation the minutes it will take a nervous teacher, with racing heartbeat and shaky hands, to pull out a key and put it in a lock or punch in a code, retrieve the magazine, insert it in the weapon and rack the slide could be precious time lost. I understand the need to not have a ready-to-fire weapon on their person, but to throw a lockbox into the equation creates an unnecessary obstacle in an already tense situation. Instead, I would suggest keeping both the magazine and weapon on the body, in the same purse or handbag, somewhere it would be easier to access under duress.

Even as a gun owner and gun rights supporter, I was on the fence about this issue going into the meeting. I’ve seen too many people at target ranges who didn’t know what they were doing pick up and discharge weapons, and that is a scary sight. But after giving it some thought I would rather have even a marginally trained volunteer in that room with my son than no one at all should a shooter bust through the doorway.

Someone at that Thursday meeting quizzed AISD Superintendent Pete Slaughter on whether or not there was a real need for this, was there any evidence that something might happen. That is missing the point. Anything can happen. We’re only safe until we’re not, and that includes our children.

Rodney Williams is the managing editor for The Anna-Melissa Tribune, Van Alstyne Leader and Prosper Press. He can be contacted at news@amtrib.com, rwilliams@vanalstyneleader.com or rwilliams@prosperpressnews.com.