We have one more chance to stop House Bill 1087, the school gunslinger bill. The Senate amended HB 1087 three times (once in committee, twice on the floor) before passing it 21–14 yesterday. Rep. Rev. Scott Craig's original five-section bill has ballooned to eighteen. I don't take the length of a bill as an inherent sign of bad legislation, but legislators have been working awfully hard to beat Craig's original sloppy mess into passable legislation. They've quintupled the verbage (from 309 words to 1,541), and they still don't have an educationally sound idea.

Here are the changes the House must approve:

  1. Senate State Affairs very sensibly got rid of the secrecy clause that would have required school boards to conduct every discussion but the initial authorization of a local school gunslinger program in executive session. The House Education committee added that clause to boost support in its chamber; the House may thus balk at that change.
  2. Senator Larry Rhoden (R-29/Union Center) moved the Senate yesterday to add language making clear that school district residents can refer a school board's ill-advised decision to arm teachers, janitors, and other volunteers to a public vote. And you can bet your bullets that we parents will refer such a decision. I'm all for more democracy to protect us from the Legislature's bad decisions... but I'm not convinced this amendment is necessary. Voters can already refer any legislative decision of a school board, and enacting a school sentinel program would appear to be a legislative decision, not an administrative decision (though I'm open to debate on that topic).
  3. At Senator Craig Tieszen's (R-34/Rapid City) motion, the Senate also added language absolving the state and local law enforcement from any liability for any injury that may result from school gunslinger program. Once again, Senator Tieszen shows he doesn't want to take any responsibility for anything that might go wrong with HB 1087.

The first two changes are reasonable. The third is irresponsible. Let's look at the opening language of Tieszen's amendment:

No law enforcement officer or county sheriff, nor the Law Enforcement Officers Standards Commission, Division of Criminal Investigation, Office of Attorney General, the State of South Dakota, nor any agents, employees, or members thereof is liable for any injury....

Agents thereof... hmm.... The school "sentinel" will be trained and certified by the same state agency that trains and certifies law enforcement officers to carry firearms. Does that make them agents of the state? Does that make them law enforcement officers? Does that mean that if a school "sentinel" causes injury while slinging his gun around my school, that "sentinel" faces no liability for that negligence? If I'm that bumbling sentinel's lawyer, I certainly argue so.

Good or bad, these changes send HB 1087 back to the House. That gives us one more chance to convince legislators to change their votes. We succeeded in changing Senator Bob Ewing's (R-31/Spearfish) mind on HB 1087 (yup, he stuck to his word and voted Nay yesterday). We can succeed in drawing seven Yeas from the House back to the side of evidence and good sense.

Call your Reps, remind them that no one in education has testified for HB 1087, no evidence supports HB 1087's effectiveness, and no significant threat exists that justifies putting out kids at more risk of physical and psychological harm.

Related Reading:

  • A nationwide online survey of teachers finds that only 30% of teachers say they would be even somewhat likely to carry a gun in school if allowed.
  • A local survey of teachers in Spearfish found 54% of us opposed to HB 1087. But even among those who said they could support the idea of more guns in our schools, a majority of the comments submitted with the survey said those teachers want the guns in the hands of law enforcement officers, not teachers, janitors, or other volunteers.
  • Slate.com has been counting gun deaths since the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting. At least 2,332 people have been killed by guns in America in the 76 days since Newtown. Slate finds six shootings in South Dakota... none of which happened in our gun-free school zones.