Guns in classrooms legislation debated

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Nevada Daily Mail

State Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Lamar, said Wednesday that his proposed House Bill 70 to let teachers and administrators carry concealed firearms in public schools "will get some tweaking," but fellow legislators' initial reactions have been generally favorable.

Kelly said in a phone interview with the Daily Mail that he garnered 24 co-sponsors in just an hour before the bill was pre-filed last Tuesday in Jefferson City, where the 97th General Assembly will convene Jan. 9. "The real purpose is to get people talking about how to make sure Missouri schools and kiddoes are as safe as possible," he said.

"Gov. Nixon is against it, but from what I see he is at least willing to talk, and that's a good sign. There are some teachers who would never even pick up a gun, but 'concealed weapon' doesn't necessarily mean a handgun. They could carry Mace or a taser."

Asked if he is concerned that a student might take a gun from a teacher, Kelly said weapons could be concealed in such ways as to keep students from knowing the teachers had them.

He added that educators would have to be trained by National Rifle Association instructors or law enforcement officers before they could be armed and hopefully stop a school shooting like the Dec. 14 tragedy in Newtown, Conn., where 20 elementary school students and six adult staff members were killed by a gunman.

"This is not to force them to carry guns," Kelly said. "It's to offer them that option."

Nevada R-5 School Superintendent Dr. David Stephens said Wednesday that he had not read the language of the proposal and would have a lot of questions about it. "An idea that allows firearms in school has a lot of issues that we would have to consider," he said.

State Sen.-elect Ed Emery, R-Lamar, said he sees potential benefits. "I hate to think of the teachers as defenseless with no way to defend themselves or the students," Emery said.

"The best defense against an illegal gun is a legal gun. If we're entrusting our children into our teachers' hands, I'm not sure how to explain why we should not let the teachers defend the children, even with deadly force if necessary."

In a news release, Nixon said the state "has a strong framework of laws to protect students and educators, such as the Missouri Safe Schools Act, which passed with broad bi-partisan support in 1996.

"Current law allows local school boards to prohibit guns in their classrooms," the governor said. "This is a time-tested and solid foundation that we should reinforce, not undermine. That is why I have serious concerns about recently introduced legislation that proposes not only to arm teachers but to do so by taking away the authority of local school districts to keep guns out of classrooms.

"Putting loaded weapons in classrooms is quite simply the wrong approach to a serious issue that demands careful analysis and thoughtful solutions."

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