ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A bill that would allow specially trained teachers to carry concealed weapons in the classroom is coming under fire from some Missouri teachers.
Lawmakers in Jefferson City said the legislation would protect students from intruders and reduce the risk of a deadly mass shooting such as the one in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“The reason for it is to give schools another tool in their toolbox to provide security for their schools,” state Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa, told KWMU-FM. “It is up to the discretion of the local school boards whether or not they will take advantage of this particular tool.”
Leaders of the Missouri National Education Association and the Missouri PTA are among those speaking out against the measure. The bill awaits the signature of Gov. Jay Nixon, who has not indicated how he will respond.
“It raises profound concerns about safety, in terms of people not knowing who’s armed,” said Otto Fajen, legislative director for the Missouri National Education Association. “That can create some uncertainty.”
Kim Weber of Columbia, who heads the Missouri PTA, said teachers should be able to concentrate on their students, not on making sure firearms are stored and used properly.
“There are too many unanswered questions,” she said. “How would they be secured? Who would have access to them? Would they be on their person? Would they be locked in a cabinet? Would they be in a special room? As a parent, I would have to have all of those things explained.”
The legislation also loosens some restrictions on carrying concealed weapons and lowers the age for eligibility for a concealed-carry permit to 19 from 21.
The proposed law would allow any school district in Missouri to designate one or more elementary or secondary school teachers or administrators as a voluntary “school protection officer.” Such a designation would include the right to carry a concealed firearm or a “self-defense spray device.” School districts would first have to hold a public hearing before allowing such a designation.
After passing a training course, protection officers would be issued concealed-carry permits and have the legal authority to detain or use force against someone on school property, including students.
“For some school districts, they just don’t have the resources to pay for police to be on staff,” Elmer said. “This allows the local communities to have these discussions and figure out whether or not they want to take advantage of this option.”
After the Sandy Hook shooting, Nixon spoke out strongly against allowing weapons in schools. A spokeswoman for the governor said his views on arming teachers have not changed and the bill “will get the same careful and comprehensive review given to every bill that gets to his desk.”