South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard signed a bill into law on Friday that will allow staff to carry guns in schools in an effort to provide extra security against school shootings. South Dakota is the first state to incorporate the National Rifle Association’s proposed solution to school shootings into state law. The rationale behind the new law is that a teacher or hired guard with a weapon can put an end to a massacre before it begins. In all other states, bills allowing staff to carry guns in schools have stalled.
Under the new law, in school districts that allow it, staff members could come to school armed if they pass a training course. Teachers who are uncomfortable with carrying a gun would not be forced to carry or purchase a gun. Governor Deaguaard said he doubted many school districts would elect to have an armed staff, but that giving them the option was important.
“People will see it’s reasonable, it’s safer than they think, it’s proactive and it’s preventive.” said the bill’s sponsor, Representative Scott Craig (R). He also told the BBC the law is a boon to poor rural areas of the state, which typically lack the funds to hire a fully staffed police force. Representative Karla Drenner (D), who is opposed to the new law, told reporters that the bill was just an attempt to strengthen gun control laws after the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre, and was concerned how a gun might escalate conflicts between teachers and angry students.
Various school board officials also question that guns in the hands of civilians would decrease school violence. Wade Pogany, Executive Director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, said the decision was too rash. “If firearms are the best option that we have, I’ll stand down. But let’s not come into a heated, emotional debate about this and say this is the answer. This is premature,” he said.