The story of second-tier Democratic congressional candidate Levi Tillemann’s freakshow campaign video macing himself and graphically depicting the aftereffects has gone national, with news outlets from The Hill to Deadspin urging their readers to drop what they’re doing and gawk in horror at a person willingly subjecting himself to laughably extreme pain and indignity. The spectacle of Tillemann’s self-incapacitation by pepper spray hasn’t inspired support so much as bemusement–at the over-the-top lengths longshot political candidates will go to to put themselves on the radar.
But once you stop laughing/staring blankly in horror/whatever your first blush reaction to this video may have been, at some point the next logical question must present itself, presumably as Tillemann intended–would giving teachers pepper spray actually work?
FOX 31 did a Truth Check on the question last night, and the answer appears to be no:
Exact quote in ad: “Empower schools and teachers with non-lethal self defense tools like this can of pepper spray […] trust me this will stop anyone in their tracks.”
Verdict: Not exactly.
Reason: It is true that pepper spray has previously stopped school shootings. In 2014, a shooter at Seattle Pacific University was disarmed because a student had access to pepper spray.
However according to some law enforcement experts — the tactic would not “stop anyone in their tracks.”
“Absolutely one of the dumbest plans I have ever heard in my life,” Grant Whitus, a retired Jefferson County SWAT team member, told the Truth Check.
“To even use it effectively law enforcement is taught to take it out and shake it and then spray it and you get an effective range of 12-15 feet. How do you get 12-15 feet in front of a mass shooter and not get shot?” Whitus added.
Much like a well-timed kick to the groin or a handy baseball bat, there’s certainly a chance that pepper spray could be effectively employed against a school shooter in certain scenarios. But practically speaking, it’s not a reliable solution for school shootings given the easy countermeasures a shooter could employ to protect himself, and the highly unequal terms on which a pepper-spray armed teacher would confront someone carrying a gun.
So to summarize, an idea that Tillemann thought was such a groundbreaking contribution to the debate over gun violence in schools that he felt compelled to graphically demonstrate it on himself…isn’t even a good idea.
That’s something you should be 100% sure about before you mace yourself.