Justice

New Missouri Gun Law Arms Schoolteachers

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The Missouri state legislature has bet the safety of the state’s children on the idea that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is an art teacher who is packing heat.

After a lengthy struggle with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) that, at one point, forced him to veto a bill that purported to nullify a long list of gun laws stretching back into the Roosevelt Administration, the state legislature voted on Thursday to override Nixon’s veto of a somewhat less radical version of this bill. Under the version of the bill that will soon take effect, school districts may “designate one or more elementary or secondary school teachers or administrators as a school protection officer” who will then be permitted to carry concealed firearms on campus.

Although school shootings shock the nation and receive significant media coverage when they do occur, they are actually relatively rare compared to the epidemic of other forms of gun violence that exists in the United States. Between 1980 and December of 2012, 297 people were killed in shoot shootings. Meanwhile, nearly 3,800 people were killed in accidents involving firearms from 2005 to 2010 alone. So the likelihood that an armed vice principal will gun down a school shooter is quite small, and it must be weighed against the possibility that a student or fellow teacher will be accidentally shot.

Additionally, even in the unlikely event that a gunman does assault a Missouri school where the guidance counselor is armed, the so-called “school protection officer” could prove just as dangerous to innocents as she is to the gunman. According to a 2008 study by the RAND Corporation concerning the New York Police Department’s firearms training program, “the average hit rate during gunfights was just 18 percent. When suspects did not return fire, police officers hit their targets 30 percent of the time.” Once again, this was the hit rate among trained police officers.

Though the new Missouri law does require the school protection officers to “submit a certificate of school protection officer training program completion from a training program approved by the director of the department of public safety,” it is unlikely that they will receive the same degree of firearms training that NYPD officers received prior to this study.