A Columbine survivor who witnessed the murder of two of his classmates said he believes teachers should be armed and issued a blistering condemnation of public schools for “failing” to protect students from harm.
On April 20, 1999, 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado were killed after Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire, murdering 12 of their classmates and one teacher. Evan Todd, 15 at the time, was the first student wounded in the library at Columbine and the last student to speak to the teenage killers before their shooting spree ended.
Though his life was spared, Todd watched as the shooters murdered two of his classmates, execution-style.
Based on his experience, Todd — a Christian who is married to a fellow Columbine survivor — said he’s convinced that teachers should be allowed to carry guns in schools as a preventive measure.
“There's no reason in today's day and age that we don't have either armed security, armed teachers or some force-on-force training that is in every single school, every single day,” he said during a recent episode of Abby Johnson’s hit podcast, "Politely Rude."
“A lot of states don't have the funding to put a security guard or an officer in every school … but at the same time, they will allow teachers to be armed. So in essence, they're rolling the dice with people's childrens' lives, and hoping that it doesn't happen there.”
“I tell parents, this is the reality,” he continued. “They don't have the money for it and that's why armed teachers are absolutely 100% necessary. And we should, as a community, as a society, be paying for that training [for] them so that they can get the highest quality medical and fire training so that if anything ever does happen, they're ready.”
Over 1,000 teachers or other school staff in districts in 31 states can legally carry weapons in schools, according to a 2019 review of state laws and local news reports by the Guns & America project by National Public Radio stations nationwide.
In those schools, Todd noted, there have been zero shooting incidents, adding: “School shooters are targeting schools that are unarmed and open for killing.”
In many states, he said, law-abiding citizens carry firearms at the grocery store, in churches and while shopping, but are “disarmed by the government” when it comes to schools — “and they shouldn’t be.”
Todd said he believes that those who oppose the arming of teachers are simply “uninformed" or relying on emotion.
“What I've noticed in discussions with people with the opposite point of view, it really boils down to their fear of firearms and their lack of knowledge,” he said. “They think there's going to be some teacher who has a temporary issue that's going to threaten the kid with a gun. Some of the arguments that have been put forward are just bizarre.”
The issue is two-sided, Todd said, explaining there is a “preventative” side and a “treatment” side.
“You do the preventative, but when ... shots are fired, there's someone trying to murder children, there's only one treatment, and that is force-on-force, physically, with deadly force, stop that school shooter. The only way to do that is with armed security or armed teachers.”
“This is not a Republican-Democrat issue, this is not a left-right issue. This is our children, and we need to protect them,” he said.
Reflecting on the events of that horrific day and any possible prevention that could have occurred, Todd said there were many warning signs that went ignored.
For example, the two shooters were notorious bullies who had “threatened people before” and “loved looking at pictures of the Holocaust.” Yet, he said, their patterns were "very similar" to other school shooters that exhibit disturbing behaviors, “yet we keep writing it off” as “just a phase.”
Still, Todd said he gives Columbine's administration “grace,” as school shootings were largely unprecedented at the time.
The first school shooting that made national headlines, Columbine launched a media obsession with such events, airing disturbing footage in a way that Todd believes exacerbated the problem.
“One of the dynamics that really changed from Columbine and in culture was … it was on TV and people were watching your life. They saw the tragedy unfolding before them, it was like watching a train wreck,” he said.
“I think that did something psychologically to our culture. And I think it in a way, it helped perpetuate the problem, even if it wasn't something that was intentional,” he reflected.
But violence in media is a “bigger issue” in culture, Todd said, as entertainment that glorifies violence “desensitizes us” and “detaches us from real human life.”
“When people see ... these horrible events unfolding on TV, I think they can detach themselves, subconsciously, in a way that it doesn't feel real, that doesn't feel like those are actually moms and dads losing children, or husbands and wives. They don't look at it from the viewpoint that these are human lives that are being lost.”
As he grappled with the aftermath of the shooting, Todd said it was his faith and the prayers of his fellow believers that sustained, protected and encouraged him.
“My faith was the number one thing that got me through the difficult times of dealing with what happened,” he shared. “After tragedies, people say they're sending their thoughts and prayers. I can tell you, as someone who has been on the receiving end of those, they matter. They matter. They help. I could feel the support from around the world.”
Todd is now a father of two young children. When it comes to choosing a school for his children, he said that though their safety is a priority, he’s more concerned about their emotional, spiritual and mental well-being. He said his children will “never attend a government school” due to the ideologies and worldviews many of them push.
“Schools are trying to push all kinds of different ideologies and political agendas through school and they don't care what parents say,” he said. “Some people let it go; they think that the school has the right to co-parent, and they don't.”
“We have a responsibility as parents to raise our child in a way that we see fit, and the schools, I think, are failing.”