Truth Check: Can pepper spray really stop school shooters?

Truth Check
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DENVER — The Truth Check traditionally fact checks campaign commercials that appear on television. Exceptions can be made however for viral online spots — like the one by Levi Tillemann.

Tillemann is running for the Democratic Nomination in the 6th Congressional District against Jason Crow.

Recently Tillemann launched an online commercial that shows him getting pepper-sprayed to demonstrate the need for pepper spray in schools.

You can watch our previous “Truth Check” segments here.

You can read our criteria and standards here.


Pepper spray can stop all school shooters

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.


Trump wants to put guns in schools

Exact quote in ad: “In just a few years he’ll be in school, Donald Trump wants to give his teacher a gun?”

Verdict: Not exactly

Reason: The President has made clear he supports arming some teachers — including providing incentives to teachers who arm themselves. The President has clarified he doesn’t want all teachers to have guns however — just the ones with “talent.”


More students have died in 2018 from shootings than US Troops

Exact quote in ad: More students have been killed in school shootings in 2018 than US troops in combat operations.”

Verdict: True

Reason: Since “combat” operations are minimal nowadays, as a result deaths are minimal as well. Fatal school shootings however continue to take place. 

Statement from Levi Tillemann:

“In today’s cluttered media landscape it’s hard for good ideas to get the traction they deserve. Police officers are regularly required to be pepper sprayed in the course of training in order to better serve and protect our communities. Levi believes that personal discomfort is a small price for him to pay to make our schools safer. Most politicians are talkers; Levi’s a doer. We’re proud of that.”


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