Press "Enter" to skip to content

Three Amendments Send School Gunslinger Bill Back to House

Last updated on 2015.02.14

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.
  • 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.


  1. Erika 2013.02.28

    What happened to "guns don't kill/hurt people, people kill/hurt people"? If no one is responsible for injuries related to carrying a gun, then the gun must be responsible, right?

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.02.28

    Clever, Erika! And Larry, I somehow don't think the insurers are going to grant any school district immunity. But Craig Tieszen won't be responsible for those costs, either.

  3. Charlie Johnson 2013.02.28

    We had the same trouble with Amendment E and corporate agriculture. Everyone wants a "corporate veil" to hide behind. The changes to HB 1087 just wrote it's own "corporate veil" to prevent individual responsibility.

  4. WayneB 2013.02.28

    That nationwide survey is quite interesting... It's unfortunate over 30% of respondents indicated they felt unsafe in schools.

    While only about 30% would carry if allowed, I find it more telling the overwhelming support for armed officers - just about 88% thought armed officers would improve safety to some degree or 'nother.

    I would be very curious to see the linkages between questions; did the folks who felt the least safe also indicate they would carry firearms?

    Your link to the Slate map is interesting as well, but I find the tool less useful; it doesn't distinguish among suicide, murder, accident, and law enforcement shootings. I would assert we should focus our attention upon murders & accidents. Suicides & legitimate law-enforcement shootings shouldn't factor into our discussion.

    You're right, though - South Dakotans seem content to visit violence on an individual, rather than mass, basis. I would stand by my assertion that HB 1087 is unnecessary due to the extremely low risk.

    For our nation, however, the survey you provided indicates getting "good guys with guns" on school grounds would be very well received... the survey respondents just want them to be actual law enforcement officers, rather than themselves. That's definitely something worth contemplating.

  5. LK 2013.02.28


    One of us is doing bad math. As I read the survey, 53% felt safe; 22% felt very safe; 18% felt somewhat safe. That's 93% in the safe category which leaves 7% in the unsafe category.

    I would be willing to grant that the "somewhat safe" is a sort of gray area but the survey offered the "somewhat unsafe" option as well. It would seem, therefore, that "somewhat safe" does not indicate "unsafe."

    On the broader point of Cory's post, I find the House Republicans more than a little hypocritical on this issue. They are all for parent rights except when it comes to allowing parents to know if there is a gun in the classroom. The parents who don't want their child in the room with an armed civilian apparently surrender all of their rights at the school house door.

  6. WayneB 2013.02.28

    LK, apologies - neither of us are engaging in bad math. I was referring to this question:

    Do you feel your school is a safe place from gun violence?
    * Yes: 7,371 - 68.87%
    * No: 3,332 - 31.13%

    Interesting it doesn't correllate with the general question about feeling safe.

    Generally speaking, the more public knowledge, the better. I would want people to be able to make informed choices. I would want everyone to make rational (not emotional) decisions...

  7. Steve O'Brien 2013.02.28

    I have posted before about a general belief I have that guns are by their nature intrinsically dangerous. Statistics that show that gun owners are more likely to shoot family members than intruders, or the example of how a gun show in the South banned guns after people were accidentally shot at the show.

    Today's example seems most on point: a Texas school employee was shot while at a district-sponsored gun training.

    Really, what are we opening ourselves to?

  8. PNR 2013.02.28

    Tieszen's amendment means the school board will have to accept liability for injury, negligent discharge, and so on. One more reason, even if the bill becomes law, that sane school boards will choose not to avail themselves of the opportunity presented.

    Since school boards just lllooovvveee controversy, you know they're not going to take up a proposal for a vote when it's almost certain to be referred to the voters and cost somebody his seat on the board. And since insurers think the idea of half-trained "sentinels" larking about schools with sidearms is risky, they'll charge more for liability insurance - and school boards really don't like spending money on insurance, either.

    So I really don't understand the sense of desperation in your post, Cory.

  9. Steve O'Brien 2013.02.28

    PNR, I don't want to speak for Corry's concern, but mine is that the issue of Second Amendment rights gets to become a powder keg issue, a beachhead for an all-out NRA assault in every local school and school board election in the state if this passes. This is very much a vehicle for some serious fanaticism to get injected where it ought not be. Look how quickly any discussion devolves from real safety concerns to Second Amendment rights even on these forums; locals will have the same tempest to face.

  10. PNR 2013.02.28

    Steve O-
    They'll have that to face regardless. There's a whole minefield of powder keg issues out there - climate change, 2nd amendment, sex ed, intelligent design, school choice, standardized testing, teacher merit pay (teacher merit determination even), prayer, 1st amendment issues, tax rates...... Most of them have national lobbying groups on all sides of 'em just waiting to pounce on poor school districts to make their presence felt and chalk up a "victory" for their respective donors to crow about.

    If ye olde school board member can't stand the heat...

  11. grudznick 2013.02.28

    What if somebody gets a bunch of names to refer this like they did with Has anybody thought about that?

    And speaking of this whole janitor with guns thing seems like it really kept those school boards and fatcat administrators hopping mad. They've already forgotten about giving good teachers more money.

  12. Douglas Wiken 2013.03.01

    Janitors need guns so they can be sure flags get folded correctly.

  13. PNR 2013.03.01

    Works for me, Doug.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.03.02

    Steve, I've wondered just how much the NRA would turn up the heat on local school boards. Would a campaign to push the locals to allow guns be as cost-effective as seeking changes at the top (Pierre and Washington)? How much local small-ball does the NRA play now?

  15. Steve Sibson 2013.03.02

    "I have posted before about a general belief I have that guns are by their nature intrinsically dangerous."

    So is driving a vehicle 75 MPH. Where in the Constitution is the right to bear a car found?

  16. Steve Sibson 2013.03.02

    "What if somebody gets a bunch of names to refer this like they did with Has anybody thought about that?"

    Yes, and we can make that list of names public so we all know who agrees with a totalitarian police state for America instead of a Constitutional Republic.

Comments are closed.