With a close 8 to 7 vote, a bill that would allow South Dakota teachers, volunteers and others to be armed inside South Dakota schools, passed through the state House Education Committee.
Whether you support the measure or think it's a bad idea, it's an issue that is sparking debate as it relates to two of the most emotionally charged issues in our country: guns and the safety of our children.
Friday morning, 8 of the 15 committee members voted to move the bill forward, but only after it was amended. If passed, the sheriff's office in each school district's county will have to sign off on any proposed sentinel plan.
Rapid City School Board Member Brian Blenner supports the bill. While he doesn't believe arming anyone besides law enforcement officers is necessary in the Rapid City School District, he says he likes the idea of local control. "I think the idea of school boards being able to make the decision and then confirming with law enforcement is a well-rounded idea," Blenner said.
He's not alone. Rapid City Chief of Police Steve Allender also supports a local decision, but that doesn't mean he is in favor of arming local teachers and volunteers. "There are potential consequences to having lots of guns around," he said. Like many of the committee members, Allender expressed concern about the risks inherent with firearms in schools. "In a crowded school system such as Rapid City the risks outweigh any possible benefit but in the school that is 30 minutes away from a law enforcement response, I'm not qualified to speak for them," Allender continued.
The issue will get hashed out. Whether the debate stays in Pierre or makes its way to communities across the state is still up in the air. In the meantime state lawmakers should prepare for an influx of commentary.
The amendment to the bill also includes one week of mandatory law enforcement firearms training. The bill will be debated on the house floor next.