Gov. Jay Nixon expressed opposition Monday to legislation that would let Missouri teachers carry concealed guns into classrooms, describing it as "the wrong approach" after the recent deadly shootings at a Connecticut elementary school.
Nixon said in a publicly released letter to school superintendents that he has "serious concerns" about the legislation, which already has more than two dozen sponsors in the Missouri House.
"More can and should be done to enhance school safety, but this legislation would put our children at risk and limit the ability of local school districts to keep their schools safe," Nixon said. "Putting loaded weapons in classrooms is quite simply the wrong approach to a serious issue that demands careful analysis and thoughtful solutions."
Officials from across the country are considering policy changes after 20-year-old Adam Lanza, armed with an assault-style rifle, killed 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on Dec. 14. Some congressional Democrats want to reinstate a federal ban on the sale of assault weapons. Last week, the National Rifle Association proposed placing trained, armed volunteers in schools to guard children.
Missouri law allows concealed guns to be carried by people age 21 and older who have no felony convictions, are not mentally incompetent, and pass a firearms training course and a background check. But state law prohibits concealed guns from being brought into schools unless approved by the local school board or a school official.
Paul Fennewald, a former Missouri homeland security director who now is an adviser to the Missouri Center for Education Safety, has said he is unaware of any school districts in Missouri that allow concealed guns. The center is a public-private partnership between the Missouri Department of Public Safety and the Missouri School Boards' Association.
Legislation filed last week by Rep. Mike Kelley, a Lamar Republican, would let teachers and administrators with concealed-gun permits bring their weapons to school without need of local approval. It has the support of several top lawmakers, including House Speaker Tim Jones, a Eureka Republican, and Majority Leader John Diehl, a Republican from the St. Louis area.
Rep. Stanley Cox, a Sedalia Republican, has suggested that people might think twice about attacking schools if they knew teachers or administrators could be carrying guns.
Nixon described the current law allowing school boards to bar guns in classrooms as "a time-tested and solid foundation that we should reinforce, not undermine."
The Missouri School Boards' Association also objected to the legislation.
"We think that a school board ought to be able to set policies on which employees should be able to carry weapons, just as any other employer would in the private sector," said association spokesman Brent Ghan.