Detroit police chief: Some teachers should carry guns

George Hunter
The Detroit News

In the wake of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead, Detroit’s police chief said students would be safer if some teachers carried guns in class — a position that isn’t shared by Detroit Public Schools Community District officials or Mayor Mike Duggan.

“What’s a better idea? I’ve not heard one,” Chief James Craig told The Detroit News this week. “You can say put armed police officers into every school, but that’s not practical. I’m not saying arming teachers is the only solution, and I’m certainly not saying we should just hand out guns to all teachers. That’s ridiculous.

“But it makes sense to arm certain teachers who are trained, such as former military or police officers. That’s only one of several components, including taking a strong look at mental health issues, and making sure police take action when they get indications someone may be violent.”

President Donald Trump made similar comments after gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people in Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida. Trump said designating schools as “gun-free zones” puts students in “far more danger” and called for “gun-adept teachers and coaches” to be able to carry concealed firearms.

Duggan doesn’t agree arming teachers is a good idea, spokesman John Roach said.

“Chief Craig is certainly entitled to his opinion, however his opinion is not the position of this administration,” Roach said in an email.

Detroit school Superintendent Nikolai Vitti and Iris Taylor, Detroit school board president, issued a joint written statement disagreeing with Craig.

“The district is opposed to arming personnel in schools with the exception of officers,” they wrote. “This position is consistent with the voice of our teachers, families, and students. We look forward to advocating for additional funding for mental health support and smart gun control.”

Craig has broken with the stated positions of most big-city police chiefs on gun issues before. He made national headlines after he told The News in 2014 he thought Detroit would be safer if more “good Americans” were armed.

Craig said Israel enacted a “common sense” school gun policy after the 1974 “Ma’alot massacre,” in which Palestinian gunmen entered the Netiv Meir Elementary School and took 115 people, 105 of them children, and demanded that Israel release Palestinian prisoners. After a standoff, the gunmen killed 25 hostages, including 22 children.

In response to that incident, Israel passed a law mandating armed security in schools, and provided firearms training to school staff.

“They’ve only had two school shootings since then, and in both cases an armed teacher took out the armed suspects,” Craig said. “We need to stop letting our schools be soft targets for people who want to harm children. I don’t think the people who are pushing back on this idea are considering all alternatives.”

Craig also said his officers are trained to react differently than Broward County sheriffs deputies, who reportedly stood outside Stoneman High School during Cruz’s rampage.

“If you reasonably believe lives are in peril, and you hear shots when there are people inside screaming, you’ve got to go in,” he said. “It’s recommended that you have an entry team of at least three officers — but when you’re talking about children being shot, it’s my expectation that my officers will go into that school and try to stop the threat.”

Craig joined other law enforcement officials, including Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, who insist police officers are trained to enter a facility where an active shooter is present.

Bouchard posted photos of himself on Facebook, showing him training with a semi-automatic rifle Sunday, with the caption: “Hope and prayer is not a strategy, preparation is.”

The photos were posted days after Bouchard released a statement to his deputies saying he expects them to act differently than their Broward County counterparts.

“If we arrive on a similar scene our job is to go in without delay, locate, and neutralize an active shooter,” Bouchard said in the statement. “I will either go in first, by your side or at your six depending on our arrival times. Regardless, I will be going in.”

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN