South Dakota House passes bill allowing school districts to arm teachers

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January 30, 2013

South Dakota

By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: A bill that would allow school districts to arm teachers and other personnel with guns was approved on January 29 by the South Dakota House of Representatives after supporters said it could make would-be attackers think twice about entering a school building.[1][2]

Representatives voted 42-17 to send the measure to the Senate for further debate.[1]

Supporters of the bill say school boards need the option of arming teachers, administrators or volunteers to protect against attacks like last month's school shooting in Connecticut.[2]

The bill's main sponsor, Rep. Scott Craig argued that the possibility that a school may have armed protectors could deter attacks.[2] "The measure leaves it up to each school board to decide whether to train and arm teachers and others. Schools are now inviting targets for potential mass murderers because they are considered gun-free zones," he said.[1]

Opponents of the bill argue that guns in schools would make those schools more dangerous. They say arming teachers could lead to accidental shootings.[3]

Rep. Ray Ring stated that he opposes arming school personnel because it's more likely to lead to accidental shootings than to stopping attackers. He noted that associations representing local school boards, school administrators and teachers oppose the bill.[1][2]

"Educators believe arming teachers and volunteers with minimal training will erode the learning environment without significantly improving security," Ring said.[1]

Rep. Steve Hickey pointed out other areas of concern. Hickey argued that arming school personnel in some districts is only part of an overall approach to school safety. Some schools need to make their entrances more secure, and more mental health counseling is needed for students.[1]

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