February 23, 2018

Why Sending Armed Veterans to Guard Schools Would Be Ludicrous

Featuring Phillip Carter

Source: Slate

Journalist Phillip Carter

On Wednesday, as families continued to bury their loved ones killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, President Trump suggested that one answer to gun violence in schools might be to post armed veterans to deter would-be attackers—and stop them with return fire if necessary.

The idea, suggested a week ago by Sean Hannity on Fox News, resonated with many who believe in the myth of a “good guy with a gun,” and admire the American military too. But for many practical reasons, it’s a ludicrous idea. Although their firearms familiarity is better than the national average, most troops and veterans don’t have the skill to carry out the kind of duty Trump suggests. It would take multiple troops to secure a single school, making this effort incredibly costly. And even if the logistics made sense, arming veterans to guard schools would turn the occasional incident into a firefight, likely killing or wounding many more in the crossfire.

Most Americans have shot a gun at some point in their lives. All service members do so as part of their basic training. For some, such as infantry soldiers or Marines, this training lasts for weeks and includes training on how to shoot under duress. However, most troops do not serve in the infantry or special operations or military police fields—assignments that emphasize firearms proficiency. The typical service member learns to qualify on a rifle or pistol range in basic training, actually shooting targets for just a handful of days. Upon arriving at a military unit after basic training, most troops qualify with their assigned pistol or rifle just once or twice a year, maybe shooting 50 or 100 rounds each time at paper or plastic targets in a series of timed drills. This type of semiannual qualification helps maintain basic proficiency—but it does not create the kind of close-quarters marksmanship necessary to prevail in an urban firefight. Only certain military units (like special operations, infantry, or law enforcement) shoot often enough, and practice in the right ways, to develop that level of skills.

Read the full article in Slate.

  • Phillip Carter

    Senior Fellow and Director, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

    Phillip Carter is Senior Fellow and Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.  His research focuses on issues facing v...