SPANISH FORK, Utah – Nancy Miramontes had 30 seconds to find the gunman.
The Utah school psychologist weaved through a maze of dusty halls before spotting him in the corner of a classroom, holding a gun to a student’s head. She took a deep breath and fired three shots, the first time she’s ever used a gun. One bullet pierced the shooter’s forehead.
“Nice work,” a police officer told her as they exchanged high-fives in front of cardboard props representing the gunman and student.
Miramontes recently joined 30 other Utah teachers at a series of trainings where police instructed them on how to respond to an active shooter. Teachers went through the shooting drill inside a warehouse set up to look like a school, then moved outside to a shooting range.
Active shooter training for educators is becoming more common nationwide, and Utah is one of several states that generally allow permit holders to carry guns in public schools. Other states, including Florida and Texas, have programs that allow certain teachers to be armed if they are approved under a set of stipulations.
Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith said the popularity of concealed carry permits in Utah makes such trainings even more important. About half the teachers brought their own handguns to the shooting range.
“If teachers are going to be bringing firearms into schools, let’s make sure they know how to handle them safely,” Smith said.
At least 39 states require lockdown, active-shooter or similar safety drills, according to the Education Commission of the States. Other states have less explicit requirements or leave it to districts. Utah requires its elementary schools to conduct at least one safety drill each month, and its secondary schools to have detailed emergency response plans. The firearm training is voluntary, but the Utah County Sheriff’s Teachers Academy already has a waiting list for its next four-week program.