As It Happens

Parkland parent says schools should have armed staff — but not armed teachers

Max Schachter, whose son was killed in the Florida school shooting massacre, was the only person on a Florida commission to vote against a proposal to give teachers guns.

Max Schachter was the only person on a Florida commission to vote against a proposal to give teachers guns

Max Schachter is the father of Alex Schachter, who was killed during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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Max Schachter says every school should have good guys with guns — but they shouldn't be teachers.

Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex was killed in the 2018 Parkland, Fla., school massacre, was the only person on a state-appointed safety commission to vote against a proposal to arm teachers.

The report released Wednesday by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission recommends arming teachers, spending more on school security and mental health and training police to respond more aggressively to school shootings. 

Schachter doesn't want to give teachers guns. Instead, he says schools should have armed staff members who are vetted and trained.

Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.

How do you feel about the fact that some teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School could be carrying firearms?

It's been a very difficult time for me to be on the commission, you know, having to live through the murder of my little boy Alex.

Every meeting is excruciating, but the commission has put a lot of good work together.

I'm in favour of arming principals, assistant principals, school monitors. I'm not in favour of arming classroom teachers.

I want everyone to understand that if a guy with an AR-15 is walking down the hallway intent on killing your son or your daughter, do you want a good guy on campus to stop him? That's the question that every parent around in the United States and Canada needs to answer.

Schachter says he joined the state-appointed school safety commission out of a sense of duty to his son Alex. (Max Schachter/GoFundMe)

There are, though, a lot of people who are ... concerned about the message that it's sending to those students and the culture it creates to have those people armed. What do people who feel that way not understand?

The most important thing is to make sure that whether or not you go to the movie theatre or you go to the courthouse or you are going to the airport or you go to school, that every person, every child, every teacher, every citizen goes home to their parents, gets to go home alive.

So when you go to the airport, are there armed guards there? Yeah, there are. When you go to the courthouse, are there armed guards? Yeah, there are.

There should be armed guards at your school too.

One thing that we've not talked about is that this murderer had an empty gun five times. Five times, somebody could have stopped him if they had a gun.

I'm in favour of arming certain school personnel.

West Salem High School junior take part in nationwide demonstration for gun safety in schools on March 14, 2018. One student carries a sign bearing the name of Alex Schachter. (Molly J. Smith/Statesman-Journal via AP)

I am so sorry about the loss of your son, and you have said that it was very difficult for you, understandably, to be on this committee. Why was it, though, so important for you to take part in this process?

It's something that I had to do for my little boy. I wanted to find out the truth. I wanted to find out what happened on Feb. 14 — how this could have happened.

And I wanted to hold those people accountable for the mistakes that they made, not preventing this from happening.

The painstaking detail that this report went through — I mean, it's hard for outsiders to read this, never mind someone whose family has lived through it. I mean, what are you hoping that the people learn from this report?

There are so many mistakes. This was the most preventable school shooting.

I'm hoping that the lessons ... that we learned from this horrible tragedy, the best practices that we have created out of this tragedy, will permeate into every school around the country, because they will make students safe around the country and prevent this from happening and mitigate the number of casualties at the next school shooting.

You talk about arming some school staff members, but so many students who went through the shooting have said that they think this is the wrong way to go. Those survivors have actually been been fighting this effort.

That's not true.

Some of them have.

I think that's just absolutely ridiculous. If there's a guy walking down the campus around the hallway with an AR-15 ... how do you stop that killer? How do you prevent him from killing your son or daughter?

The reason they are attacking our schools are because they're soft targets. They're not attacking our airports. They're not attacking our federal buildings.

But do you think maybe, you know, it's even more difficult for these kids to go back into a school environment with more guns given what they lived through?

I think they'd feel safer. I know the kids with no protection do not feel safe. I certainly wouldn't want to send my kid to a school that knows that it's a soft target.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.