Article originally published at SlowFacts. Republished with permission.
By Rob Morse
Few of us think very well, and sadly, that weakness applies to judges too. Two Ohio judges recently rendered a decision. They told the three thousand school staff members who were trained as first responders that they can no longer bring their firearms to school unless they pass police officer training. I’m not sure what problem this ruling was trying to solve. We have many thousands of school-years of experience with volunteer armed school staff in Ohio. So why, now, would judges reverse the standing interpretation of the state attorney general?
People excuse their emotional decisions. Part of the law says that an armed security guard must meet the standard of a law enforcement officer. That section of the law is titled- “109.78 Certification of special police, security guards, or persons otherwise privately employed in a police capacity.” (emphasis provided by the author) The state attorney general wrote a formal letter saying that armed volunteer teachers are not acting in a police capacity. The judges didn’t believe him.
What does it mean to act in a police capacity? The police perform routinely scheduled security patrols, but armed school staff don’t do that. Teachers are not required to move toward someone who is breaking Ohio’s laws, but the police have to. Police make arrests and secure suspects, but armed school staff don’t do that, and shouldn’t do that. Armed school volunteers don’t preserve evidence and transport suspects for processing. School volunteers are not required to appear in court during a suspect’s trial. That is what the police do. So why would a judge of obvious intelligence confuse the two situations?
Armed school staff were put in place for one reason. These volunteers said they would stop a mass murderer and treat the injured. We are fortunate that attempted mass murder is rare. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to have an armed police officer standing in every hallway in every school so he can be there when a madman wants to kill our kids. We can’t afford to have an Emergency Medical Technician standing in very school hallway to treat the injured. Teachers volunteered to do that job, but most of the time these armed teachers are busy teaching.
School staff volunteered to do that job without additional pay. They were going to put their body between a murderer and “their kids”, and all they wanted was the training to stop the threat. These volunteer school staff submitted to background checks and interviews. During their training, they demonstrated that they shoot better than the marksmanship standard set for Ohio police officers. The volunteers in our schools learned first-aid/trauma training to stop the bleeding after they stopped a murderous attack. They took this training so they could keep students and staff alive until the police and EMTs arrived. How could a judge confuse these volunteers with the duties of a police officer?
Judges are human, and we are all captive to our experience. The judge usually sees two types of people who have guns; they are criminals and cops. The judge almost never sees a person with a concealed carry license as a defendant in his courtroom. For the judge, it is the cops who are the good guys who carry guns, even though there are a hundred legally armed civilians for every sworn law enforcement officer. For the judge, police and criminals are real, while legally armed civilians with a concealed carry license are an abstraction; they are something the judge has read about, but has never seen.
Societies also formalize and codify behavior over time. We used to do it on our own, but now, people get licenses to cut hair, apply makeup, braid hair, and fix up your yard. We used to carry a firearm without a permit, but now we require a license. We used to run errands to earn some extra money, but now, many cities require a cab or coureur license to do that. With this court ruling, these judges said that volunteer school staff need police certification and hundreds of of hours of training that they’ll never use so they can protect our kids in school. We don’t need teachers to write parking tickets or process an accident scene. Will a judge say that school volunteers need EMT certification in order to provide first aid?
It is human nature to assume that our experience is ordinary. Ordinary citizens protect our family at home and protect ourselves at work. In contrast, our judges are protected by an armed bailiff and by law enforcement officers who work in the jails and the courtroom. Perhaps the judge has forgotten that most of us provide our own protection. We are our first responders, at home, at work, and in public.
Judges also have to get elected. Perhaps these judges will claim they made our children safer by requiring more training for armed school staff. What they will deliberately ignore is putting our children at greater risk by leaving more children undefended. 79 of Ohio’s 88 counties had programs in place that allowed trained school volunteers to go armed. The judges’ ruling leaves those kids unprotected. The judges’ decision doesn’t make sense to me, but maybe the judges are depending on campaign donations from anti-gun groups to get re-elected.
The courts will take years to correct this decision on appeal. The legislature will probably fix it in a few months. The good news is that we are in the middle of a quarantine due to the Wuhan flu. Our school-age children are at home and being protected by their parents. That gives us time before we put our children at risk in our public schools.
We all make mistakes. It is up to us to fix this one. You can find your Ohio legislators here.