JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Monday that policymakers should consider the availability of particularly lethal weapons after a deadly Connecticut school shooting, and a state lawmaker suggested arming teachers or other school personnel might help deter such attacks.
Nixon, a Democrat who is a gun owner and hunter, stopped short of calling for any specific gun-control measures in response to the shootings that killed 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But he said it's time for policymakers to focus on "the lethality of various weapons that are used and how that fits into what should be available."
"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.
President Barack Obama said in a nationally televised speech Sunday night that he wants to use the power of his office to tackle the problem of gun violence. Since the Connecticut school shooting Friday, some Democrats have renewed calls for a ban on military-style assault weapons.
But Republican state Rep. Stanley Cox said Monday that it also might be time to allow trained teachers, administrators or volunteer security officers to carry concealed guns on school premises.
"I think there is a correlation between these horrible acts of violence and the gun-free zones that have come about by the law," said Cox, a Sedalia attorney who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Missouri law prohibits people who have permits to carry concealed guns from bringing their weapons to schools, colleges or universities unless given approval by the school system's governing board or a school official.
Paul Fennewald, a former Missouri homeland security director who now is an adviser to the Missouri Center for Education Safety, said Monday that he is unaware of any school districts in Missouri that allow concealed guns. He estimated that about half of the districts have school "resource officers," though such police officers are often spread thin among several school buildings. One possibility would be to allow retired law enforcement officers who keep up with their firearms training to volunteer to help provide security at schools, he said.
At Sandy Hook Elementary, the principal apparently tried to stop the shooter but was unarmed and was fatally shot.
"I think there is a good argument to be made that if people were there who were trained in the use of firearms, who were good citizens, that this would not be as horrible of a situation as it is," Cox said.
Nixon said policymakers need to consider not only whether current weapons laws need revisions but whether appropriate services are available to adults with mental health problems.
"We're always ready to discuss ways to make our schools safer," Nixon said. "We're always ready to discuss ways to make sure that we have a mental health system that operates efficiently and effectively to find folks that are violent or troubled and to get them the care or protection they need to keep occurrences from this like happening."