PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed into law Friday a measure allowing the state's school districts to arm teachers and other personnel with guns, the first of its kind since the Connecticut school shooting.
Supporters say the so-called sentinels could help prevent tragedies such as December's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 students and six teachers died. The law will go into effect July 1.
The bill's main sponsor, Rep. Scott Craig, R-Rapid City, said he started working with federal law enforcement officials on the measure in early November, and the Connecticut tragedy weeks later "only affirmed the rightness of this bill." He said the measure does not force a district to arm its teachers or force teachers to carry a gun.
"There's no mandating of anything. It's provisional. It's a take-it-or-leave-it bill," he said.
South Dakota doesn't stand alone on this issue. For a dozen years, Utah has allowed teachers and others with concealed carry licenses to wear a gun in a public school. A couple of school districts in Texas have been given written authorization to allow guns in schools. And legislatures in other states, including Georgia, New Hampshire and Kansas, are working on measures similar to South Dakota's.
Several representatives of school boards, school administrators and teachers opposed the bill during committee testimony last month. They said the measure could make schools more dangerous, lead to accidental shootings and put guns in the hands of people who are not adequately trained to shoot in emergency situations.
Rob Monson, executive director of School Administrators of South Dakota, said his group opposes the bill because it fails to address key issues, such as school building safety, mental health and fire and emergency response.