Missouri lawmaker wants to require armed guards on school campuses

Missouri lawmaker wants to require armed guards on school campuses
AP Photo/Martha Irvine

The recent shooting at a St. Louis high school that resulted in the murder of a teacher and a student has prompted Missouri Democrats to demand an overhaul of the state’s gun laws; from repealing the Second Amendment Preservation Act to bringing back the state’s permit-to-purchase requirement for handguns. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has rejected those demands, calling instead for increased school security measures, and with the St. Louis public school system currently prohibiting armed guards from being stationed inside of school buildings at least one GOP lawmaker says he’s interested in making it mandatory for schools to have some armed presence on campus, whether school resource officers or armed school staff.

Whether someone in the school should have been armed — and if that would have made any impact whatsoever — isn’t just a question in the aftermath of last month’s shooting. It will likely be a focus for state lawmakers when they return to the Capitol in January.

Right now school districts have the option to have armed security, including allowing teachers or administrators to carry a firearm. Republican state Sen. Rick Brattin of Harrisonville said he’s exploring legislation to make it mandatory.

“We need to step it up to where there’s a requirement to how you’re going to protect kids,” Brattin said.

Included in a bill passed by Missouri lawmakers in 2009 was a provision giving school officials and school boards the authority to decide if a person with a concealed carry permit could carry a gun on school campuses.

There’s no state agency that tracks which campuses have given this authorization, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

Four years later, Brattin said he decided to push legislation to establish a school protection officer program after hearing about school shootings and realizing “what a soft target our schools really are.”

For some rural schools, it takes law enforcement 45 minutes to respond to a call, Brattin said, and several of the districts didn’t have access to school security guards.

2019 report released by the Missouri Governor’s School Safety Task Force confirmed this, finding that 40% of public school districts that responded to a survey didn’t have any school security. The survey was completed by more than half of the public school districts in Missouri.

Brattin’s proposal is going to be met with resistance from Democrats, though I highly doubt they’re going to have the numbers to prevent passage in the state legislature. Instead, they’re going to waste their time and energy targeting legal gun owners with bills to outlaw semi-automatic rifles, establish “red flag” laws, and perhaps even try to impose background checks on ammunition purchases.

“I do not think that we need guns in our schools, period,” said Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, in an interview with The Independent after the shooting. “What we need to do is strengthen our state gun laws and we won’t have to worry about people having unlimited access to ammunition, and clips that shoot 20 and 40 rounds at one time.”

May said arming teachers and people in the school sends a certain message to the children.

“And that’s not the message we want to send,” May said. “We want a safe, peaceful environment for our kids to grow up in. And we can do that by strengthening the gun laws in this state.”

There’s a massive shortfall in the number of police officers in and around St. Louis, and May wants those relatively few officers who remain to treat legal gun owners as if they’re the primary threat to public safety in the state. Forget about concentrating on carjackings, home invasions, and armed robberies; according to May what really needs to happen is for lawmakers to turn the right to keep and bear arms into a laundry list of possessory crimes.

Missouri voters will have a chance to decide for themselves what tactic the legislature will adopt when they head to the polls tomorrow, and frankly, I don’t think it’s going to be close. Parson isn’t up for re-election this year, but I’d be shocked if Republicans lose their supermajority status in the state legislature, and Missouri AG Eric Schmitt is the prohibitive favorite to win the open U.S. Senate seat that’s up for grabs thanks to Sen. Roy Blount’s retirement. When the dust settles and Missouri Democrats are in the headspace to seriously consider what went wrong on Election Day, they need to do some serious soul-searching about their embrace of gun control as well their party’s inability to talk about inflation and other economic concerns that are weighing heavily on the minds of voters.  Gun control isn’t going to be the overriding issue for Missouri voters, but the anti-gun mentality of the state’s Democratic Party is likely to be a drag on their candidates nonetheless.