South Dakota’s House of Representatives approved a bill that would allow school districts to arm teachers and other employees with firearms on Tuesday.
The Republicans passed the measure 42-17, putting it in the Senate for debate there. Supporters of the bill say that the measure will make potential attackers second-guess attacking South Dakota schools, reports The AP.
Supporters also say that the measure is primarily useful in rural areas where police are not posted in schools. Arming teachers and personnel could provide a bulwark against potential shootings like last month’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Those who do not favor the bill argue that arming teachers would end up making schools more dangerous because it could lead to accidental shootings and because teachers are not trained to do anything but teach.
Rep. Scott Craig, the bill’s main sponsor, said that the measure only gives school boards the choice to train and arm teachers. Because schools are gun free zones, Craig argues that they are appealing targets for mass shooters.
“The possibility of an armed presence in any of our schools is a deterrent,” Craig said.
However, Rep. Ray Ring opposes the measure because he thinks it will lead to accidental shootings. He also said that reps for local school boards, school administrators, and teachers oppose the bill.
“Educators believe arming teachers and volunteers with minimal training will erode the learning environment without significantly improving security,” Ring said.
Fox reports that passage of the measure would require training for teachers wishing to carry a gun.
There is some middle-ground dissent to the bill. Republican Rep. Steve Hickey, while approving of the measure, said that it’s only a part of a larger issue which also involves improved security at school entrances and mental health counseling. Democratic Rep. Troy Heinert thinks the measure could send a bad message to kids.
“Doesn’t this bill blur the line between a teacher and a law enforcement officer?” Heinert said. “Do we want to tell our children the only way to be safe is to carry a gun?”
What do you think? Should schools train and arm teachers?