HAZLEWOOD, MISSOURI — In response to the December school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, more than two dozen Missouri Republicans are cosponsoring a bill that would allow teachers and administrators to carry guns into public schools if they have a concealed-weapon permit.
“They are the people that we already entrust to educate and protect our children, but we don’t give them all the tools they need,” said state Rep. Mike Kelley (R-Lamar). “This is going to give them one of the tools they’ve been missing.”
Missouri is one of several states where lawmakers are considering allowing teachers or administrators to bear concealed arms in schools as a defense against school shootings after a Connecticut gunman killed 20 children and 6 adults two weeks before Christmas. The other states include Virginia, Texas, South Dakota, Minnesota, California, and South Carolina.
Indiana already allows teachers with concealed carry permits to bring their guns to school if their district designates them as a security officer. Some Texas schools do the same. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a bill to let teachers and doctors carry concealed firearms, objecting it did not allow school districts and hospitals to opt out.
Lawmakers, Parents Question
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) also questions the idea. Although the Republican said in a conference call with reporters he is wary of passing any law that would infringe on the Second Amendment, he’s not sure arming teachers is the answer either.
“I don’t think we should rush to the conclusion that more people with guns in school is the solution to this,” he said.
Jackie Scott watched her 4-year-old granddaughter Aaliyah ride on quarter-operated amusements at St. Louis Outlet Mall in December. She doesn’t agree armed educators will secure Aaliyah’s preschool.
“Maybe they should hire armed security guards,” she said.
Missouri law allows only law enforcement officers to carry guns into a school.
High Political Rhetoric
Outside the nearby Cabela’s store—a paradise of firearms and ammunition for recreational gun users—Dallas Piper said he saw armed guards protecting Israeli students when he served in the U.S. Navy, but said he doesn’t think Missouri teachers should carry them.
The gun-rights advocate, who grew up hunting on a farm, doesn’t agree with Kelley’s legislation. He marveled at the political rhetoric that has followed what he called a “heinous crime.”
“I guess the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Piper said. “In this case the heinous wheel gets the grease.”
Gun Checks, Training
Kelley’s bill isn’t the only Missouri proposal that’s sprung up after the shooting.
State Rep. Stacey Newman (D-Richmond Heights) said she plans to file legislation to require criminal background checks for people buying firearms at gun shows.
“We cannot sit idly by and wait for a similar tragedy in Missouri,” Newman said. “Doing nothing is no longer an option.”
A state Senate bill, filed the day before the massacre, would require all public schools to train employees in proper responses to dangerous situations, including simulated active shooter drills. First-graders also would be taught gun safety.
C. J. Huff, the superintendent of Joplin schools, called the thought of gun safety classes for 6-year-olds “weird” and said he doesn’t support putting guns in educators’ hands.
“I don’t know very many businesses in this community or in this country that would say let’s give all the employees a handgun to protect themselves because of violence in the workplace,” he told the Missouri News Horizon. He said handguns belong in the police department.
Huff said he’d rather see Missouri lawmakers focus on student mental health in hopes of preventing future tragedies.
Likely Legislative Reception
With its supermajority in the Assembly and Senate, Republican-backed gun bills could see traction in Missouri.
In recent years, Show-Me State lawmakers lowered the age requirement to obtain a concealed carry permit and passed another bill allowing themselves and their staff to carry firearms in the Capitol building.
The National Rifle Association has praised Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon for his support.
Assault Rifle Target
But Nixon said he is concerned about assault weapon availability. The .223 caliber Bushmaster AR-15 used in the Connecticut shooting is not considered an assault weapon under existing federal laws because it functions like most hunting rifles.
“The gruesome efficiency with which this horrific crime occurred gives pause to all of us as to the lethality of weapons out there,” Nixon said.
More than 2 million AR-15s were sold between 2000 and 2010, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Guns and Ammo magazine says the gun is “hugely popular for recreational target shooting.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said she will file legislation in 2013 to reinstate the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, said she supports such a ban.
“Claire’s a daughter of rural Missouri, so she’ll always protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans, but she’s also a mom, and a former Jackson County prosecutor, and believes we can do better by our children,” said spokesman Drew Pustateri.
Such rhetoric worried former Navy man Piper as he watched last-minute Christmas shoppers enter Cabela’s. He’s concerned an assault rifle ban could lead to the government taking away more gun rights.
“That’s where it’s headed,” he said. “They want to put their foot in the door.”
Johnny Kampis ([email protected]) is a reporter for Missouri Watchdog, where an earlier version of this article appeared. Reprinted with permission.
Image by Jim Greenhill.