By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
HAZLEWOOD — Bring your teacher an apple and some bullets?
In response to the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., more than two dozen Missouri Republicans are co-sponsoring a bill that would allow teachers and administrators to carry guns into public schools if they have a concealed-weapon permit.
“They are the people that we already entrust to educate and protect our children, but we don’t give them all the tools they need,” said state Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar. “This is going to give them one of the tools they’ve been missing.”
Consider U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri one who questions that idea. While the Republican said in a conference call with reporters this week he is wary of passing any law that would infringe on the Second Amendment, he’s not sure arming teachers is the answer either.
“I don’t think we should rush to the conclusion that more people with guns in school is the solution to this,” he said.
Jackie Scott watched her 4-year-old granddaughter Aaliyah ride on quarter-operated amusements at St. Louis Outlet Mall Thursday morning. She doesn’t agree that heat-packing educators are the key to securing Aaliyah’s Velda City preschool.
“I don’t think it’s going to make it any safer,” Scott told Missouri Watchdog. “I think maybe they should hire armed security guards.”
State law only allows law enforcement officers to carry guns into a school.
Outside the nearby Cabela’s store — a paradise of firearms and ammunition for hunters and recreational gun users — Dallas Piper of St. Charles said he saw armed guards protecting Israeli students when he served in the Navy, but he said he doesn’t think Missouri teachers should carry them.
Even this staunch gun-rights advocate, who grew up hunting on a farm, doesn’t agree with Kelley’s legislation. He marveled at the political rhetoric that has followed what he called a “heinous crime.”
“I guess the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Piper told Watchdog. “In this case the heinous wheel gets the grease.”
Kelley’s bill isn’t the only Missouri proposal that’s sprung up after the shooting, which left 26 dead – including 20 children.
Democratic state Rep. Stacey Newman, of Richmond Heights, said she plans to file legislation that would require criminal background checks for people buying firearms at Missouri gun shows.
“We cannot sit idly by and wait for a similar tragedy in Missouri,” Newman said. “Doing nothing is no longer an option.”
A state Senate bill, filed the day before the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, would require all public and charter schools to train school employees in how to properly respond to dangerous situations, including requiring simulated active shooter drills.
First-graders also would be taught gun safety in that program.
C. J. Huff, the superintendent of Joplin schools, called the thought of gun safety classes for 6-year-olds “weird” and said he doesn’t support putting guns in educators’ hands either.
“I don’t know very many businesses in this community or in this country that would say let’s give all the employees a handgun to protect themselves because of violence in the workplace,” he told Missouri News Horizon. “Outside the police department where guns belong, I don’t know that that’s the best practice.”
Instead, Huff said he’d rather see Missouri lawmakers focus on student mental health, which might prevent future tragedies.
“We don’t have enough mental health support to address all the mental health needs of our kids,” he said. “That’s something that we see is becoming a bigger challenge.”
With its supermajority in the House and Senate, Republican-backed gun bills could see traction in the Missouri General Assembly.
In recent years, Show Me State lawmakers have lowered the age requirement to obtain a concealed carry permit and passed another bill allowing themselves and their staff to carry firearms in the Capitol building.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is a supporter of gun rights, and the National Rifle Association has praised him for his support.
But Nixon said earlier this week he is concerned about the availability of assault weapons. A .223 caliber Bushmaster AR-15 was used in the Connecticut shooting, but would not have been considered an assault weapon under previous federal laws.
“I think that the gruesome efficiency with which this horrific crime occurred gives pause to all of us as to the lethality of weapons out there,” Nixon said.
More than 2 million AR-15 rifles were sold between 2000 and 2010, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Guns and Ammo says the gun is “hugely popular for recreational target shooting.”
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said she will file legislation next year to reinstate the previous federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. Missouri’s U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said she supports such a ban.
“Claire’s a daughter of rural Missouri, so she’ll always protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans – but she’s also a mom, and a former Jackson County prosecutor, and believes we can do better by our children with a little common sense,” said spokesman Drew Pustateri.
The rhetoric worried the former Navy man Piper as he watched last-minute Christmas shoppers enter Cabela’s. He’s concerned a ban on assault rifles could lead to the government taking away more gun rights in the future.
“That’s where it’s headed,” he said. “They want to put their foot in the door.”