Districts who opt into the program could authorize “Safety Guardians” which would be certified to carry firearms on school campuses after specified training.
The Mississippi House and Senate agreed on a conference report that would allow some teachers and administrators to carry a firearm on their school campuses under the Mississippi School Protection Act as approved by their local school boards.
The bill, SB 2079, would allow any public school district or public charter school to opt into the program and allow for specified individuals to participate in a training that would qualify them to serve as “Safety Guardians” within the schools where they work.
The Mississippi School Safety Guardian Program is a voluntary program, and no district would be required to participate in it.
The intent of the program is to allow designated and trained employees to carry concealed firearms for the protection of students, employees and others that are on campus at that school in the event of an active shooter or other harmful situation that could cause death or serious harm to anyone on campus.
If a school district decides to participate in the program, those who would be eligible to become safety guardians must currently hold an enhanced conceal carry permit. They would be subject to instructional training conducted by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (DPS) repeated yearly. DPS would also conduct a criminal background check, psychological screening, shooting proficiency test, and annual recertification training. Those that participate would also receive CPR and First Aid certifications.
The bill provides immunity from civil liability for School Safety Guardians, as long as they are acting within the scope of the provisions. If they are found to be acting outside of that scope, their immunity would be waived, and they would be held liable.
There is also a financial allocation for $500 which would be paid to each safety guardian.
This program would not override a school’s ability to use current or retired law enforcement for security measures. It does allow the addition of teachers to the list of individuals eligible for training to carry a firearm on campus.
During questioning on the bill, lawmakers presented several potential scenarios in which it could be problematic for a teacher or administrator to have a firearm on campus in their possession.
Rep. Cheikh Taylor (D) offered a scenario in which a young, female 120 pound teacher who was certified to carry a firearm, encountered a large male football player who had a history of behavioral issues and was on the cusp of a potential transfer to alternative school.
“If she felt fearful, would she not reach for her gun?” asked Taylor. “This bill may be well intentioned but the application of it within a classroom that is already overcrowded, my worry is the conversation may end up in an altercation.”
Taylor also pointed out that not even correctional officers in Mississippi prisons are allowed to enter the facility with a firearm.
The legislation was unclear as to what kind of firearm these safety guardians would be permitted to carry. Representative Nick Bain (R), who presented the conference report, did not have an answer for that, but said it would be according to the training provided by DPS.
Freshman Representative Jeffery Hulum (D) said he hoped that lawmakers would consider increasing funding to local law enforcement and retired law enforcement for increased security on school campuses.
The vote in the Mississippi Legislature occurred on the same day as a school shooting in Tennessee when a 28-year-old Nashville woman entered Covenant School and killed three students and three adults. According to police, local authorities shot and killed the female shooter.