By: Randy Tucker
“Almost all the school shootings, even mass shootings, you can look at any of them, as soon as there is returned fire or resistance put up, the shooter does a number of things, they kill themselves, surrender, or flee,” Steve Simpson said.
Simpson is a history teacher in Lander, Wyoming at Fremont County School District #1 and a former combat Marine.
“As soon as resistance is put up against an active shooter it lowers the attack. When you advertise a gun free zone, it’s an invitation to criminals,” Simpson said. “You can’t legislate criminals into compliance.”
Simpson is a veteran teacher, with three adult sons. His wife is a kindergarten teacher in the district, too, so school safety is always on his mind.
Lander is one of many Wyoming schools that have an armed school resource officer (SRO) on campus. The problem with schools in communities like Lander is that the SRO is often serving many different schools. Lander is a mountain community of about 9,000 people, but has a separate high school, middle, and elementary schools, spread out over a distance of up to three miles between facilities.
“Schools with an SRO are in better situations; still, when you advertise a gun free zone, criminals know that no one has a gun except the SRO, if he’s in the building at all,” Simpson said.
Even in small communities, when a 911 call comes in, the response time can vary from five to 10 minutes before a uniformed officer can arrive. Those minutes are often the difference between life and death for defenseless students and staff.
Simpson is in favor of concealed carry on selected staff members at all schools.
“The whole idea for me is to reduce the reaction time, the response time as much as humanly possible,” Simpson said. “As a Marine combat veteran, I know that a firearm that is not readily available is useless. I’m of the mind that in order to be an effective deterrent, [the weapon] needs to be on the person and accessible. A concealed weapon, not open carry. The people who carry the weapons will have to have them concealed, and who has them will be greatly restricted.
“When we’re talking about schools allowing staff members to carry a firearm I don’t think it should be an across-the-board, an anyone can do it kind of thing,” said Simpson. “You don’t want it become a bigger hindrance than it is a help,” Simpson said. “Look for people who have experience with firearms and who can pass a psychological exam and make sure they have access to ample training opportunities throughout the year. There are a limited number of people who can deploy deadly force.”
Simpson has specific handguns in mind that he believes can be concealed and yet still carry enough firepower to deter or eliminate an armed-to-the-teeth maniac invading a school.
“There are three different viable weapons,” Simpson said. “The Springfield 45 compact. The .45 ACP holds 7 and 1. You need to carry one or two [extra magazines]. That gives you 22 rounds readily available to deploy.
“The Sig Sauer 365 compact 9 mm has a 14-round capacity. The third weapon is a Sig Sauer 40 compact. It’s still smaller than a duty sized weapon, but concealable depending on your wardrobe selection. These three weapons are viable options … and a great deterrent. The Sig 40 has interchangeable barrels that converts to a .357.”
Simpson owns and fires these three weapons and is very familiar with the benefits of each one.
The weapon is only a small portion of the defensive scheme of arming teachers and staff, however. The biggest factor is selecting the right person to carry and ultimately defend the school from attack.
“Someone who is trained in combat weaponry is ideal,” Simpson said. “Someone who knows if you shoot twice and don’t see any effect, you move to the groin or above the shoulders. That counteracts body armor.”
As an American History teacher, Simpson is a student of the Constitution and has strong views on the First and Second amendments.
“The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that we all have the right to carry a weapon,” Simpson said.
“Churches are in a similar situation to schools,” Simpson said. “In schools right now, if you’re going to carry a weapon, the board, district administration, and principal need to give their consent. The situation is the same for churches. It boggles my mind that our society gets intimidated by law-abiding citizens who carry weapons.”
The real-world situation an armed teacher or staff member might face brings up many questions that only someone who has carefully studied the situation can answer.
“In a lot of shooting situations, sometimes the shooters are kids,” Simpson said. “If you come around the corner and you encounter a 13-year-old boy can you put two rounds in his chest? There is no training in the world to prepare another human being to do that.”
Liability within the district must be provided with a firm policy of supporting the staff member who may have to employ deadly force. The district must represent the staff member in all subsequent litigation and provide all the training and peripheral costs. They also need to compensate the staff members who are selected to carry weapons on campus.
“I learned a couple of things from the Marine Corp,” Simpson said. “First, bad policy gets people killed, and second, most people are sheep, very few are guard dogs. You need to find people who react like guard dogs.”
Randy Tucker is a retired history teacher and freelance writer from western Wyoming. He has a lifetime of experience in farming, ranching, hunting and fishing in the shadow of the Wind River Mountains. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.