South Dakota is the nation’s first state to pass legislation explicitly authorizing employees of schools to have guns while on the job. The measure was signed by Governor Dennis Daugaard into law Friday afternoon.
The passage of the controversial law comes at a time of passionate debate nationwide over arming schoolteachers following the massacre of 20 students and six employees of an elementary school in Connecticut last December.
Shortly after the shooting, the National Rifle Association suggested that armed guards protect each school in the country. Proposed new legislation allowing personnel at schools to carry weapons was introduced in more than 24 states. All of the measures, with the exceptional of South Dakota’s have stalled in their respective legislatures.
In several states, there are already provisions in existing laws that make possessing guns for teachers possible in classrooms. The fact is a few school districts across the country already have teachers who carry weapons. However, South Dakota became the only state known with a specific statute authorizing teachers to carry firearms in a school K-12.
The bill in South Dakota was sponsored by Scott Craig, a first term Republican in the state house of representatives, who said his hope was the measure would shift the discourse on safety in schools in the U.S.
The new law leaves it up to individual districts to make the decision to allow teachers to be armed or not. However, it remains to be seen if many of the schools in the state will allow guns in their classrooms and whether other states in the nation will pick up South Dakota’s lead.
Governor Daugaard, who is a Republican, said he thought not many school districts in the state would allow their teachers to possess firearms, but he said it was important that the choice is available to them.