State Rep. Nick Bain, R-Corinth,
The School Safety Guardian Act is meant to allow school boards to train teachers and school staff to respond to an active shooter situation.
On Tuesday, the Mississippi House passed Senate Bill 2079 which would allow educators to be armed. The move came after State Representative Nick Bain (R) offered a strike-all amendment to the bill that inserted the House’s language from HB 532, the Mississippi School Safety Guardian Act.
“This is very similar to what we did with the Church Protection Act years ago,” Bain said. “We’re allowing for staff members, administrators, and teachers to potentially carry guns if they are properly trained through the Department of Public Safety.”
Bain explained they would have to go through a certain number of trainings and have to be licensed and certified according to the various statutes when it comes to concealed carry and enhanced carry.
The bill states the following:
The governing body of a school, in consultation with school administrators and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, may designate employees to participate in a School Safety Guardian Program developed by the Department of Public Safety, by which designated and trained school employees are authorized to carry concealed firearms for the protection of the students, employees and others on the campus of the school.
The scope and purpose of a School Safety Guardian Program includes responding to an active shooter situation or other situation that would cause death or bodily harm on the school campus or in the immediate vicinity of the school campus. The guardian’s weapon shall always remain under his or her physical control while such person remains on the school campus.
The House Judiciary B Chairman said his law firm represents the Prentiss County School District and this has been an issue with them. He explained that some of the school board members wanted teachers or staff members to have access to a firearm. One of the reasons they were advised against doing such was the immunity and the liability that is imposed.
“So, what this bill does is creates an immunity statute that if the school district participates in the training as laid out by the Department of Public Safety, the district would be immune if something happens while that employee is acting within the scope of the Guardian Program,” Bain said.
“They have immunity also through the program if they’re designated as a staff member, similarly what we did with the Church Protection Act. They are eligible for a $100 to $500 stipend per month that the staff member could have,” Bain continued.
State Representative Chris Bell (D) asked how much this bill would cost to implement. Bain said it wouldn’t cost much, if anything.
“A lot of teachers, the last thing they want to do is carry a gun,” Bain said. “But there are some there that do. And this would allow them to enter into a training mechanism so that they are better prepared to protect their students.”
Rep. Bell said his concern is actually having those individuals – teachers, administrators, or staff – having guns in the classroom with students.
“There’s no mention of a safety lock box for these firearms,” Bell said. “You only mentioned training and stipend, which is important. Wouldn’t you agree it’s very dangerous to have a firearm in any classroom setting?”
Rep. Bain said the bill would require the School Safety Guardian’s weapon to always remain under his or her physical control on campus.
“That means that it has to be on them,” Bain said. “Also, if a gun was given to somebody or a gun was negligently used or taken from a staff member, the school district would lose their immunity on that.”
Rep. Bain noted that the bill would go to conference regardless. He said the House Bill originally came to him from Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell’s office.
State Representative John Hines (D) asked if there was any consideration as to whether tasers, stun guns, things such as those, were considered instead of firearms.
“My concern is, how about crawling before you walk,” Hines said. “Give some people some tasers, some stun guns.”
Bain circled back to the intent of the bill.
“This is just saying, if you’re going to arm a teacher and you want to arm a teacher, most school districts in the state right now, they’re not doing it because their insurance coverage won’t cover them. This would allow them to do that,” Bain said.
State Rep. Brown said most of the schools now have resource officers and many are armed. He asked how that would conflict with the armed resource officers already in the schools.
“This is an optional program, it’s not mandatory,” Rep. Bain replied, adding that the school resource officers who are there now will still have the opportunity to be there.
Bain said this is a supplemental program that they are trying to make available to school districts for the opportunity to “cover the kids.”
Rep. Thomas Reynolds (D) asked if psychological testing is required in this bill. Bain said, “Yes,” and added that the school safety guardian training certification process must include:
- An instructional course developed by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety
- A criminal background check
- A psychological screening
- A shooting proficiency test
- An annual re-certification training
State Representative Shanda Yates (I) said she was conflicted about the bill, having lived through a school shooting while in high school and now as the mother of a child in elementary school. She ultimately said she was voting yes on the bill.
State Representative Daryl Porter (D) asked for clarification on whether a teacher would have to carry the gun on them at all times. Bain responded that is what the bill says.
“The guardian’s weapon shall always remain under his or her physical control while such person remains on the school campus,” the legislation states.
Bain said there’s no perfect bill that would address every single hypothetical that the body could come up with.
“But I do believe this is a sound, good policy that allows for your locals to make the decision on whether they want their teachers to be armed,” Bain said. “And if they are going to be armed, it gives them the ability to be trained and some access to the proper certifications to make sure they’re acting in the best interest for our children.”
Two amendments were adopted to the bill. One of which, authored by State Representative Jansen Owens (R), restricted the use funds received by school districts under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) from being used to pay the stipends authorized in the bill. Another amendment, authored by Representative Noah Sanford (R), allowed the governing body of a school to contract with a third-party vendor to provide personnel who will participate in the School Safety Guardian Program, provided that each participant meets all necessary requirements under the bill.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 79-35.
You can view Tuesday’s full floor action below.