Mississippi Senate just voted to make it easier to arm teachers in schools

Mississippi State Capitol (credit: getty images)

The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) oft-repeated talking point of arming teachers in schools has gained traction in Mississippi, where lawmakers voted Wednesday to make it easier for school staff to carry guns in the state’s classrooms.

The state Senate passed a measure that would allow individuals with enhanced carry permits to sue public places that prevent them from carrying guns. The measure would apply to public and private elementary, middle, and high schools and public colleges and would allow these institutions to implement policies requiring training and mental health screenings for school staff who want to be armed on campus, the Clarion Ledger reported. The vote comes three weeks after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida resulted in the deaths of 17 students and teachers.

While current Mississippi law already allows people with enhanced carry permits to bring guns to schools, many schools and colleges in the state have independently adopted policies that limit guns on campus. This bill, HB 1083, would likely circumvent such rules.

Several senators raised the possibility that the measure would be ineffective in preventing or stopping mass shootings and that it could even put staff and students at greater risk of harm.

“Are you aware that the New York Police Department, which is the nation’s largest police force, average hit-rate is 18 percent for officers in a gunfight?” Sen. Barbara Blackmon (D) asked prior to the vote, according to the Clarion Ledger.

“If these professionally trained police officers only have a 20 percent … rate of hitting their target, in an active shooter situation what would you surmise a teacher in the classroom’s rate would be?” she added.

“In the war-zone, one of my comrades who had been trained, under attack he actually froze,” said Sen. Willie Simmons (D), a military veteran.

Evidence supports these concerns. As ThinkProgress has previously reported, armed school staff would have very little chance of stopping a shooter. In Parkland, for instance, the armed school resource officer did not enter the school to confront the shooter. Furthermore, the presence of more guns on campus increases the chance of a fatal accident or injury. Just last week, a Georgia teacher was arrested after firing a gun and injuring one student in a classroom. In the confusing and chaotic event of a mass shooting, the likelihood that an armed teacher would confront the wrong student is also a dangerous possibility.

“To be trained is not just about shooting,” Dr. David Hemenway, a professor of health policy at Harvard School of Public Health who has studied the public health impact of gun violence, told NBC News. “Your heart is beating like crazy, your adrenaline is all over your body, and you have to make a wise decision about what to do.”

According to an analysis by the FBI, most mass shootings are stopped by unarmed people. And 2016 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that states with stricter firearm laws have fewer gun-related deaths. Mississippi, which has only five gun-related laws, ranks in the top four states with the highest firearm fatalities, at about 20 deaths per 100,000 people. By comparison, Massachusetts has more than 100 gun-related laws and is the state with the least gun deaths, at about four per 100,000 people.

HB 1083, which was heavily amended in the Senate, now moves back to the House for consideration.