Blunt hastens safety plan

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:25 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Spurred by the shooting deaths Monday at Virginia Tech, Gov. Matt Blunt announced the creation of a Campus Safety Task Force on Tuesday, a plan that he said has been in motion for months but was hastened in response to the shooting.

The same day, a bill eliminating the waiting period involved with the sale of pistols was heard in the Missouri’s Senate Judiciary Committee.

Blunt said his staff had been discussing the idea of a higher education safety task force after a similar task force had been created to examine safety issues with public schools in 2006. That task force was created after a nonfatal shooting incident at a Joplin middle school in October 2006.

“The most recent school shooting tragedy in Virginia highlights the very urgent nature of this task, and it’s very important that we get a more formal group established,” Blunt said.

Members of the task force will include higher education leaders, law enforcement and students and will be chosen in the next few weeks.

Blunt said the task force’s main purpose will be to improve safety standards, heighten security and provide the governor’s office with a report of their findings by the beginning of the upcoming fall semester.

“Clearly what happened (Monday) created a greater sense of urgency across the country,” Blunt said.

Along with the new task force, the governor announced the inclusion of universities and colleges into an Internet-based program used by K-12 schools to place building floor plans online. These floor plans will be available to law enforcement personnel in an emergency.

“Really, the only cost to the college or university is gathering the data,” Blunt said. “Once you have the data in some electronic format, it’s easy to post to the server so that local law enforcement can view it.”

Terri Durdaller of the Public Safety Department said no university has uploaded its floor plans into the site. She said university floor plans are different than K-12 school plans because there are more buildings and more rooms per building.

Meanwhile, the Virgina incidents reopened the firearms debate in Missouri.

Rep. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, said campus shootings, such as the incident at Virgina Tech, could be avoided if students or staff were allowed to carry concealed weapons.

“In Missouri it’s actually worked a couple of times to help save somebody’s life and prevent a bad situation,” Munzlinger said.

Munzlinger is the sponsor of a bill that was heard before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday night that would allow purchase of a pistol or other concealable weapon without a state permit.

“I think we have good laws here in Missouri that protect our Second Amendment rights,” Blunt said. “In terms of specifics with how security on a campus is armed is a decision for the university to make.”

Munzlinger’s bill was approved earlier this year by the House. The Senate committee hearing had been scheduled before the Virginia shootings.

Currently, firearms are prohibited on all four campuses of the University of Missouri System except for approved programs that include campus police and ROTC.

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