COLUMBIA — Columbia school officials oppose a bill prefiled in the Missouri House that would allow teachers to carry firearms in school.
Prefiled Tuesday by Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, the bill would allow teachers and school administrators with concealed carry permits to bring firearms to schools. The bill would eliminate the need for teachers to first get school board approval to carry guns to school.
The bill was proposed less than a week after 20 children and six adults were killed in a mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
Kelley said schools are vulnerable to attacks because criminals know guns are forbidden there. He said he also filed this bill out of concern for schools that are so remote that it would take too long for law enforcement to arrive if there was an attack.
It would take about 20 minutes for a sheriff’s deputy to get to one school in his legislative district, he said.
“What would that gunman have done in 20 minutes?” he said. “It’s hard to imagine.”
Chris Belcher, Columbia Public Schools superintendent, said he opposes the bill because it takes away the power of school boards to determine what is best for their communities.
“The school district, with communication and discussions with the community, should be the one determining what’s best for their school,” Belcher said.
He refrained from offering an opinion on the proposal to allow teachers to carry guns, saying that the Columbia Board of Education has yet to take a position on the bill.
Tom Rose, president of the Columbia Board of Education, said his concern with the bill is that teachers do not get sufficient training for it to be safe for them to carry guns in schools. Potential problems he cited were someone getting access to a misplaced gun or a teacher mistaking an angry parent for a gunman.
Kelley said it's likely he will amend his bill to require that teachers get firearms training, such as an eight-hour National Rifle Association weapons course.
Paul Fennewald, special adviser to the Missouri Center for Education Safety, said it should be up to each school district to decide whether teachers can carry firearms. If they do, he said, schools should consider training that is as rigorous as that required of police officers.
Columbia Public Schools has four school resource officers, who are Columbia Police Department officers working for the district. At any given time, there is one in each of the three high schools, and one who rotates among the three junior high schools.
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