Not everyone is for guns in schools
by Rory Doyle
Feb 23, 2013 | 1780 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The odds of seeing Mississippi schoolteachers and employees armed with weapons went up recently after House Bill 958 passed the Mississippi House.

The bill transferred to the senate Wednesday, where a decision will be made by March 13. If it passes the senate, the final judgment lies in Gov. Phil Bryant's signature.

The bill would allow school boards to create policies authorizing employees, including cafeteria workers and janitors, to carry concealed weapons on campus.

Democratic Rep. Linda F. Coleman from District 29, Bolivar County, said the bill is a knee-jerk response to the Sandy Hook school-shooting massacre in December.

"I don't think this is the right action to take — this is reactionary," said Coleman. "It's not wise to put weapons in the hands of teachers and other school officials.

"I know it would send a message to ward off attackers but that is such an unusual circumstance."

Part of Coleman's opposition stems from the vagueness surrounding what training would be required before staff members could carry guns.

Carriers would undergo instructional schooling, testing and certification from licensed trainers, but Coleman wonders if this is enough.

"What is the proper training," asked Coleman. "The safe handling training could be something very basic. What about the mental preparation required of when to pull a weapon?

"I would have been in favor of more law officials providing security, but my strongest opposition is to teachers and school officials carrying weapons."

Coleman added she's afraid the move would increase the possibility of weapons being used in ways not intended by the legislation.

"I'm concerned that this legislation is going to lead to too many unintended consequences," she said.

Democratic Sen. Willie Simmons from the13th District, which includes Bolivar, Humphreys and Sunflower counties, said he is also skeptical of the bill.

"Arming teachers and employees is not the best way to address the issue of school safety," said Simmons. "In fact, I think it will create more problems in our schools.

"I agree that we have work to do in terms of school safety, but I'd rather see more involvement from local police, sheriff departments and even the mental health division."

Simmons can relate to parents being concerned about sending their children to school, but he feels the potential for problems would increase with more weapons involved.

"I see no indication that having more weapons in schools is going to make them safer," he said. "Someone else or even kids could get their hands on them and then we have a whole set of different problems and scenarios."

Republican Rep. Tommy Taylor, from District 28, which includes Bolivar, Sunflower and Washington counties, said in a previous Bolivar Commercial report that the law could be a big boost for schools lacking armed security.

"I don’t have a problem with it as long as the armed teachers and staff are properly trained by the Department of Public Safety and Department of Education," said Taylor, one of the house bill's authors.

"I'm perfectly happy with the School Resource Officers that some schools already have, but this option could benefit schools across the state that don’t have these officers."

Taylor added that this is not a "carte blanche" issue, meaning those who receive weapons would be thoroughly screened.

"We all have our concerns — some people even have concerns about law enforcement officers having the proper training," he said. "Anytime you give someone a weapon there's going to be concerns."

Similar legislation is being discussed in state governments across the nation in response to Sandy Hook.