COLUMBIA – Gov. Jay Nixon opposes a Missouri House bill that would allow teachers to carry guns in schools without first getting school board approval.
Just 10 days after the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting in which 20 children and six adults were killed at an elementary school, Nixon expressed his opposition to the bill in letters sent to each school district superintendent in Missouri.
Nixon wrote that he had "serious concerns" about legislation that would arm teachers by taking away the school districts' authority to keep guns out of schools.
"More can and should be done to enhance school safety, but this legislation would put our children at risk and limit the ability of local school districts to keep our schools safe," Nixon wrote.
The bill, pre-filed Dec 18 by Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, would allow teachers and school administrators with permits to carry concealed weapons to take guns to school without first getting school board approval. The bill is co-sponsored by 23 House Republicans, including House Speaker Tim Jones and the Majority Leader John Diehl, and by Rep. Linda Black, D-Bonne Terre.
Kelley said Nixon's letter excited him because it shows that the governor takes his bill seriously and that the bill has sparked a discussion on safety in schools. He said he doesn't expect – or want – the bill to pass in its current form.
"There's no chance the bill's going to go through as it's worded," he said. "I wouldn't pass my own bill as it's worded."
Kelley has mentioned amending the bill to include a firearms training requirement.
Rep.-elect John Wright, D-Rocheport, said he opposes the bill because he thinks educators – not the state – are in the best position to decide what's best for their schools. Looking at the broader picture, Wright said that although legislators might be tempted to quickly pass legislation in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, lawmaking should be based on data and analysis.
"We're all still reeling from the events in Connecticut, and it can be tempting to want to pass legislation quickly, either for symbolic reasons or out of emotion," he said. "And I think that it's important that policymakers continue to try to maintain a sober approach when it comes to lawmaking."
Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, also has pre-filed a bill that would require gun owners to lock up their firearms when they are not in use. Violaters would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher has said he opposes the bill because it would take away the power school boards have to allow or forbid firearms in schools.
Ladd Everitt, director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said Nixon's letter to school superintendents was good news.
"Once the firing starts you've already failed in terms of public policy," he said. "What we really want to do is enact laws that will prevent deranged individuals from getting guns in the first place."
Everitt also applauds Nixon's stance because he thinks having guns in schools could send the message to schoolchildren that they are seen as a potential threat and that they are not safe.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.