Most visitors to schools are used to seeing a sign on the entrance making it clear that firearms are prohibited on school property.
Now a proposed Missouri law would require districts that allow some teachers to carry guns to post a sign reading: "Under Missouri law, this school and its staff are authorized to meet threats to student safety with deadly force if necessary."
A House legislative committee advanced the bill Tuesday evening on a party-line vote updating schools safety laws to include such signage. It would apply to school districts that allow trained employees to carry concealed weapons in school to deter or defend students in an active shooter situation.
“I think that would be much more of a deterrent than having these ‘gun-free zones’ signs up at every one of the schools,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon.
The proposal also states that any school not arming its staff will have to notify parents and explain the decision not to.
St. Louis Public Radio’s reporting has found only a few rural Missouri schools arm teachers so far, yet more districts are considering it in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month.
Climax Springs in central Missouri has some teachers who carry concealed weapons. Superintendent Nathan Barb said police presence is scarce in his rural community, so arming staff was a remedy to slow response times in an attack.
But he worries that putting a sign on the door indicating the potential use of deadly force could send the wrong message.
“My concern would be more they would see that and take it as a challenge,” he said.
The district already has a small sign on the school doors stating it uses Shield Solutions for security, according to Barb. Any teacher that carries arms in Barb’s district is trained and contracted through the private security firm.
Barb said the sign Rep. Ross is proposing might comfort some residents.
“Yet on the flip side of that, in the worst case scenario, if somebody were to come to our facility and try to do harm, I don’t think a sign would be a deterrent to that,” he said.
State Rep. Jon Carpenter, the ranking Democrat on the House General Laws Committee, voted against the bill. The representative from Kansas City said such signage could direct an attacker to a school known to not have armed employees.
“Would people start choosing targets accordingly?” he asked during an earlier committee debate on the bill.
Ross, the Republican sponsor, said schools’ decision to remain gun-free zones is “not only frustrating but heartbreaking.”
“There is no defense for these kids,” he said. “I am all but begging schools across our state to take this step to protect our kids.”
Susan Goldammer, an attorney with the Missouri School Board Association, said requiring districts that haven’t armed teachers to send letters home is an attempt by lawmakers at “shaming the local school district” into doing so.
The Missouri School Board Association, along with Missouri Association of School Administrators — which represents superintendents — both said that decision should be made at the local district level and not in Jefferson City.
St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin contributed reporting.
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