There is perhaps no surer way to invite boorish, brutish public scorn than to suggest we ought to protect schoolchildren like we do our banks. Or our courthouses, jewelry stores or hospitals, for that matter.
Colorado’s Laura Carno has set her sights on changing that.
“Good guys and gals—regular people—who are armed make us safer everywhere, and only cherry-picked data suggest anything else,” Carno said. “But teachers who have made that decision to be concealed-carry permit holders and protect their families are now disarmed when they go to work. So, when we might need them the most, they’re vulnerable—and worse, with our children hiding behind them. Schools are an ‘everywhere’ too, and we should start acting like they’re an ‘everywhere’ worth protecting.”
Carno’s name may well strike a gun-rights chord with Second Amendment watchers based on the recall defeats of two virulently anti-gun Colorado state senators. In 2013, she was very much at the forefront of the recall effort, which resulted in the first successful unseatings in the history of the state. But her interest in civil liberties is of considerably longer standing.
“All freedoms matter to me, which is why I got so heavily involved in politics about 10 years ago,” she said. “I took a closer look at what was happening to many of our liberties during the recall, and that experience was a natural complement to being both a lifelong gun owner and longtime nra member.”
Her 2016 book, Government Ruins Nearly Everything: Reclaiming Social Issues From Uncivil Servants, examines the propensity for bureaucracy to get citizen/government accountability upside down, and disastrously so from the standpoint of stopping active killers in our schools.
A trip to Ohio to review the original faster curriculum sealed her interest. “My friend Amy Cooke (at Colorado’s Independence Institute [i2i.org]) said I came back from the training like a ‘woman possessed.’ Ohio now has more than 1,400 teachers and administrators trained, and they volunteered to help us bring the program to Colorado.”
Not Just Firearms
In Carno’s view, a common misunderstanding shadows the teaching of response programs.
“faster stands for ‘Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response,’” she explained. “The acronym and the word both mean something, but what we like best is the implicit reminder: The faster you stop the killer, and the faster you stop the bleeding, the fewer people die. There’s a real sense of urgency in that name. Yes, it’s firearm training, but the mindset and medical components are also key parts of the curriculum. Not everybody has the mindset to stop an active killer, nor do we expect or even want everyone to. Understanding this fills up a half-day so that students can decide for themselves, but decide based on real knowledge. Another half-day focuses on the medical needs that have been so terribly delayed in past incidents.
“Some districts or schools have recognized this in very direct fashion: They ask us to train four people for armed response, and a further 10 for medical response. Teachers or other staff members who want to be part of the solution—but not armed—are a great fit for the medical role. We’re also respectful when people don’t want to carry—that’s their choice, and a legitimate one.”
Carno said another point many people don’t consider is that the medical skills taught in the course can be life-saving outside of an incident involving a mass killing.
“High schools, for instance, are likely to have wood or metal shops, and serious accidents can happen,” she said. “faster-trained staff can save lives in these circumstances by filling the gap as they would in an active-killer situation.”
There are grim reminders aplenty of the importance of the faster medical component.
“Outdated thinking at Sandy Hook meant it was 45 minutes before medics were cleared to enter the building,” Carno said. “Forty-five minutes! Had there been tourniquets there, and trained staff members who could stop or reduce bleeding, many more people might have survived. The same has been true elsewhere. We include instruction with battlefield-quality techniques and equipment like tourniquets, chest seals, compression bandages and hemostatic gauze for just those situations. faster students perform many of the techniques, too, on themselves and fellow attendees, and with specialized training aids.
“It’s of no value to just be horrified. But it’s a huge benefit to be able to take action until professional medical personnel can arrive.”
Carno added that even though we hear the phrase “armed teachers,” the reality is that only about 40 percent of attendees are teachers, while the other 60 percent are administrators.
“From a tactical standpoint, that means 60 percent aren’t tied to one room,” she said. “When you look at the principal or the front office staff, they are either moving around the building or seeing everybody who comes in the front door, and that’s an advantage. Custodians can be a huge asset, too—they know every nook and cranny of their buildings.
“All the same, it’s still a voluntary program. Within their budgets, districts usually send whoever raises their hand and then decide who fills which roles when they come back. And where budgets wouldn’t allow attending a training program like this, faster raises private money so that no armed staff member has to go without this lifesaving training.”
“Way down the road, it would be nice if faster-type programs were so widespread that these monsters—and that’s what they are, monsters—decided that the chances of getting the fame they seek won’t work,” Carno continued. “Until that happens, it’s also why faster’s firearm training is above the standard that Colorado law enforcement has to meet and well beyond simple ccw permit requirements. Our instructor standards are correspondingly high.”
Carno said all faster instructors are active-duty law enforcement, and all have extensive teaching experience.
“In our case, they also have swat experience (even swat leadership roles) with their agencies, so they’re especially well-suited to address one of the biggest objections raised by those who don’t want to arm any school personnel—how to keep armed educational staff from getting shot by mistake,” she said. “Because they’re the ones who do it, the instructors know exactly what should happen and are ideally suited to teach that hand-off.
“But they are also people who have a passion for this particular training, because in several cases they’ve responded to active-killer incidents. That experience has been a bitter teacher in its own way—they know they will never be there in time. If they train people who are likely to be present as an incident unfolds, they’ve done their jobs. They’ve saved lives. It’s on their recommendation that we went beyond the post (Peace Officer’s Standards and Training) qualification while still requiring the 100 percent score that police academy graduates or requalifying officers must meet. faster grads have to requalify on a yearly basis too, which also encourages continued training and practice.”
Colorado is just the second state with a faster-type program, but Carno sees hope for more growth.
“We’ve trained slightly more than 100 people, though not all are school staff within our state,” she said. “There are also people who attend on their own: Their districts don’t allow or support on-campus carry yet, but they’re hoping to take good news on faster training back. That’s where the broader changes, they hope, will start. So do we. But at the end of the day, parents and educators who want their children to be as safe as possible, as soon as possible, still get lots of pushback. Many people won’tsee that gun control just invites more or other weapons,some of them more dangerous and less preventable than what faster graduates are taught to face. Other parents, educators and especially the media still try to ‘what-if’ us to death. ‘What if fill-in-the-blank happens?’ they ask.
“I understand, but can’t agree. And you’d think by now the reason would be obvious: What could possibly be worse than a deranged killer executing child after child with nobody to stop him? Is there really a worse alternative?”
No. There isn’t.
Frank Winn has been studying arms and their relationship to tyranny, meaningful liberty and personal security all his adult life. He has been a firearms safety/shooting instructor for more than 20 years, earned state, regional and national titles, and holds Master or Grand Master rank in several competitive disciplines.
The Voices Of FASTER
Sgt. Graham Dunne, former SWAT, patrol supervisor, police Medal of Honor recipient, POST and NRA-certified firearm instructor (19-plus years), former U.S. Marine, FASTER instructor
“It’s absurd that people are more concerned about a teacher dropping a gun, breaking up a fight, or leaving it in their desk or the bathroom, than they are about somebody walking into a school and killing 20 kids. That rationale baffles me—it’s so ‘out there’ that it’s hard to refute.”
“I have a motto for my own life that’s modeled on the Russian Special Forces, and I wear it on my wrist: ‘If not me, then who?’ FASTER students are voluntarily putting themselves in that same position. As much as law enforcement would want to, we just can’t be everywhere. So it’s going to be up to those teachers and administrators, and it’s great they are willing get the right training.”
“If you look at the averages on these (incidents), I could literally be sitting in a squad car in the school parking lot, and it’d still be over by the time I could get into the building.”
“There’s a liberal argument out there that ‘Any yahoo with a gun and a permit should not be protecting our kids!’ Up to a point, they’re right, but the three days of FASTER training go well beyond what regular CCW permits require. It’s more demanding than our Colorado POST law enforcement qualification, and not everybody passes—I think that gives the program a lot of credibility.”
John, charter school facilities/safety and security director, FASTER graduate
“I’ve been an avid hunter, outdoorsman and shooter most of my life, but I learned more about shooting on day one in the FASTER class than I did in the previous 40 years.”
“One of my most resonating moments while attending FASTER was listening to Columbine survivor Evan Todd say that, had there been armed faculty present, everything would most likely have been over in just a few minutes, and that more of his fellow students would have survived.”
“Although my school district isn’t quite there yet—regarding the decision to allow qualified faculty and administrators to carry concealed on campus—I’m hoping that FASTER qualification convinces them of our commitment to protect our school’s children and other innocent lives while they’re on school property. At the same time, defenders will have a realistic chance to survive that situation ourselves.”
John MacFarlane, high school physics teacher, FASTER graduate
“Part of the reason civilians need access to firearms is so they can respond to threats in real time. Why should it be different for teachers, especially when the stakes are so much higher? I’m willing to pay for my own training if I have to, but the point is to learn what I need to be able to help now, if necessary. If there’s a mass murderer in my school, I have a moral responsibility to act.”
“There hasn’t been a fire death in an American school in something like 60 or 70 years, yet fire extinguishers and sprinklers are still everywhere; I’d like to help make the same true for school shooters: Too many trained, willing defenders for them to be able to hurt anyone else.”
“FASTER medical training really inspired me to get more bleeding/trauma kits in schools.”
Deputy Quinn Cunningham, SWAT team leader, Colorado POST Firearms SME, USPSA Grand Master, FASTER instructor
“I’m extremely motivated because I have responded to a school shooting … and my first thought was, ‘Not on my watch.’ But we still lost one kid, despite the fact that the school had done a really good job on their lockdown. Seeing that crime scene has changed my life forever. Time didn’t stand still for me then; it didn’t exist. I didn’t get there in time to give my life for her that day, so I’m going to give my life for her every (subsequent) day. I’ve been teaching civilians ever since, and why I’m involved in FASTER.”
“Law enforcement is not the standard of firearm excellence—we’ve lost some of our service/warrior mentality.”
“Unless you’re a cop who pays for your own training and practices on your own, these skills will stagnate. … It’s no wonder the hit percentage for law enforcement is well under 20 percent. This is changing for the better now, but slowly.”
“I get the question a lot: ‘How do you train teachers?’ Well, teachers who go through FASTER are better shots, as a whole, than the coppers, and the FASTER qualification is actually harder.”