A new reader checks in on the discussion of HB 1087, the school gunslinger bill, and asks whether teachers and other protectors of our children could carry non-lethal weapons, like pepper spray and tasers, at school instead of firearms.
As much as I enjoy dressing up like Bo and Luke Duke, I leave my Swiss Army knife at home when I go to work, so as not to run afoul of my local school district's weapons policy. But under federal and state laws governing weapons in South Dakota schools, local school districts appear to have the authority to authorize teachers to carry Swiss Army knives, pepper spray, and tasers. Consider:
- The federal Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 requires the expulsion of students bringing firearms to school. It doesn't apply to any non-lethal weapons. It does not apply to hunting rifles safely locked in student vehicles and intended for use only before or after school. Interestingly, it does not appear to apply to adults carrying guns on school grounds. The GFSA would even let your school arm the kids if the school could show that such action would "increase the quality of instruction for students or will improve the academic performance of students."
- South Dakota statute 13-32-7 expands the GFSA to apply to everyone but law enforcement officers, but it only prohibits firearms and air guns at school. State law does not appear to prohibit tasers, pepper spray, or your Leatherman on school grounds; that restriction is a local policy decision.
- Our criminal statutes talk about "dangerous weapons" as those inflicting death or "serious bodily harm." So if there are any other rules prohibiting "dangerous weapons" from schools, one could argue that tasers and pepper spray don't count, since they inflict only temporary, not serious, harm.
So as I look with dread at today's Senate State Affairs committee hearing on the school gunslinger bill, it occurs to me that federal law isn't as oppressive of the Second Amendment on school grounds as some shouters would have us believe. South Dakota law leaves school staff plenty of defense options other than guns. Before we pass an unnecessary and unwise law to authorize gun devotees to play John McClane, let's work within our existing federal and state rules to keep our schools safe.
(And while we're at it, let's first audit all of our existing school security policies and expenditures to see if we're using what we have appropriately.)