Teachers as Armed Guards in Michigan
A small-town police chief trains school workers to serve as volunteer reserve officers.


Jillian Kay Melchior

In Barry County and across Michigan, the idea is gaining support. Jim Alden, a Barry Township trustee, says local leaders like what they see in Pierce’s program.

“We’re leaders,” Alden says, adding that the program could easily be replicated across America. “We come from the standpoint that if there’s going to be a gun in schools, we want it in an officer’s hand, and we want trained people. Columbine wasn’t a big place. Sandy Hook wasn’t a big place. In today’s world, it could happen anywhere. Are we prepared?”

Pierce’s idea may be bolstered by a legislative effort to institutionalize similar programs across Michigan. State representative Greg MacMaster has proposed legislation that would grant individual school districts the authority to allow teachers and personnel to carry concealed weapons. The bill is in its infancy, awaiting its hearing before the House Education Committee.

But, like Pierce, MacMaster says he hopes for a program rooted in emergency-response education for teachers and administrators, “which would include shooting training as well as psychological training.” By using a reserve-officer program to equip employees, schools would also limit their liabilities, MacMaster says.

“We do know this: Gun-free zones don’t work,” MacMaster says. “It’s a place of weakness. People who want to do harm know they can go there.”

The program conceived in Michigan could be copied nationwide, MacMaster and Pierce say.

“I foresee that this will resonate all over the United States and will continue to resonate — that people, schools, and parents will say enough is enough,” Pierce says. He adds that “I can’t take every school administrator to every ugly crime scene, but if I did, it would change their tune immediately. People don’t want to see the underbelly of society, and it is ugly. . . . You know that certain things could be in place to protect [children and teens]. People want to focus on [instances] where the weapon is a bad thing. I’ve seen situations where weapons have saved them. If it’s used effectively or properly, it can be a deterrent.”

— Jillian Kay Melchior is a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.