One day before the nation’s second-most deadly school shooting, a local state senator prefiled a bill that would require schools to provide training and education about gun safety and armed intruders.
Senate Bill 75, sponsored by Republican State Sen. Dan Brown, District 16, was prefiled Dec. 13, and the following day, a gunman killed 27 people, including 20 students, and then killed himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“It disgusts me that this type of legislation even needs to be filed and addressed by the Legislature,” Brown wrote in his legislative column this past week. “Unfortunately, this is the world in which we live, and I prefiled this bill to help start the discussion about this very difficult issue.”
Brown said the concern for having an incident happen in Missouri schools has been present long before the Connecticut tragedy.
“My concern was that schools are on lockdown and there is only one entryway, if he (an intruder) gets through that entryway and there can be no guns on a school campus, therefore, you basically got teachers and students as sitting ducks, and there’s no way to protect them,” the senator said. “Even though schools are on lockdown, they’re not always safe.”
Brown’s bill would establish the Active Shooter and Intruder Response Training for Schools Program (ASIRT) and require each school district and charter school by July 1, 2014, to train teachers and school employees on how to respond to students with information about a threatening situation and how to address a potentially dangerous or armed intruder or active shooter in the school or on school property.
Initial training the first year would be eight hours long and training for each subsequent year would be four hours long. This training would include participation in a simulated active shooter and intruder response drill conducted by law enforcement professionals.
The bill also would require each school district and charter school to annually teach the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program to first-graders or use a similar program with the same qualifications.
Firearms are prohibited when teaching this program and students would never touch any type of firearm during the training. It would not teach how to fire a weapon.
The Eddie Eagle program curriculum is created and published by the National Rifle Association (NRA), but the NRA is never mentioned in the curriculum.
Brown noted that locally, the Phelps County R-III School District in Edgar Springs uses the Eddie Eagle program.
The program teaches students what to do in case an armed intruder enters the school and provides techniques that self-defense experts recommend for children to have the best chance of escaping and surviving an armed-intruder attack, according to Brown.
Page 2 of 2 - The gun safety portion of this program teaches children what they should do if they find a gun in their home or other location, which is to immediately leave the vicinity of the gun and quickly find an adult to report where the gun is located.
Brown cited an example of a student in Utah who brought a gun to school “for protection” after the Connecticut incident, and while other students there knew about it, they did not initially report it.
“That’s not what we want. If there’s a gun, we want staff to know this immediately,” Brown said.
Had the Connecticut incident not occurred, Brown said he is not sure how far the bill would go, but said he thinks now there might be a chance for it to go far in the Legislature, asking, “Where do we want to be six months from now?
“I’ve made it very clear this is nothing more than a starting point,” Brown said. “It’s time to have a discussion. We (Brown and his staff) talked about filing this last year, and we did quite a bit of work, but there wasn’t much desire for it last year.”
While a couple of legislators in the Missouri House of Representative have suggested that teachers carry guns, “there are some teachers who don’t need to be carrying a gun,” Brown said.
“What we don’t want is a knee-jerk reaction on either side,” Brown said, referring to both pro- and anti-gun advocates.
Brown called himself a “gun person” and said he collects guns, adding that for many Missouri and Midwest families, firearms are “the way we protect our family and premises.
“Most people are glad I filed the legislation and really want to have a discussion,” Brown said, noting that some people out of state are against it, but he said those individuals have misinterpreted the bill and believe Brown is promoting first-graders training with weapons.
“They’re too young to do that,” Brown said, noting that a child’s parent can decide when they are old enough to use guns. Brown said he takes his grandchildren along with him hunting and teaches them a lot about safety.