House Bill 1087, South Dakota's school gunslinger bill, passed the House Education Committee on an 8-to-7 vote with notable amendments. Those amendments only make HB 1087 worse and disprove the local-control argument that proponents have been using to shield themselves from responsibility for increasing the risk that our children will get shot at school. Let's review:

  1. HB 1087 now requires that we call these armed guards "school sentinels," which sounds like silly comic-book nomenclature. Why not the more literal and accurate term "armed guard" or "gunslinger"?
  2. HB 1087 now requires that school boards obtain the approval of the local sheriff for any gunslinger plan or changes thereto. Hmm... proponents have been accusing opponents of not trusting their school boards... but now the bill itself distrusts school boards to come up with good plans of their own.
  3. HB 1087 now requires that all school gunslingers first complete state firearms training, probably 47 hours worth, just like police. So proponents are now admitting that it is o.k. for the state to trump local control with state requirements to prevent schools from implementing bad policy. HB 1087 proponents admit letting schools arm untrained volunteers is a bad idea; I continue to contend that letting schools put even trained volunteers carry guns into classrooms is a bad idea. We disagree on the particulars, but House Education agrees with me that local control is not our guiding principle on something as dangerous as guns in school.
  4. HB 1087 now makes your school board's discussion of a gunslinger program secret. Any discussion of such a program happens in executive session. So whether you like or don't like having armed guards in your school, your school board can't tell you whether your child is sitting in a classroom with a person with a gun. Rep. Hal Wick says this secrecy will keep hypothetical shooters in the dark about school safety plans; unfortunately, it also keeps parents in the dark about their children's safety and taxpayers in the dark about the use of their money.

At the start, arming teachers and janitors and other volunteers in school was a bad idea, an emotional overreaction to the December school shooting in Connecticut. Yesterday's amendment only made House Bill 1087 worse. It exposed the speciousness of proponents' local control argument. It exposed the true costs of such a bill in terms of training armed guards. It makes our plans to expand the police state in our schools secret from parents and voters.

House members, yesterday's amendment shows you can't save bad policy. Vote it down.

Bonus Bill Blarney: On top of all that, Rep. Jacqueline Sly's amendment made HB 1087 unconstitutional. As she wrote a 16th clause into SDCL 23-3-35 to authorize the Law Enforcement Officers Standards Commission to come up with rules for certifying the school gunslingers, she apparently noticed that incumbent was misspelled (incumbant) in an unrelated existing clause. Her amendment to HB 1087 thus includes a correction of that misspelling. But at that point, HB 1087 becomes a two-subject bill: creating and training school sentinels and revising SDCL 23-3-35 for style and form. And that, as my friends in the Mugwump wing of the GOP will eagerly point out, violates the provision in the South Dakota Constitution that "No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title." Boom! Judicial review hammer time!

But darn it: when I check SDCL 23-3-35 online, I find incumbent spelled correctly. Hmm... did someone at LRC already fix the misspelling, or might the printed statute not match the online copy?