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Shocked by Sandy Hook, South Dakota allows teachers to arm themselves

A bill signed by South Dakota's governor Friday allows districts to create firearms-training programs for teachers. The program is not mandatory, but it still worries some educators.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, seen here at the National Governors Association 2013 Winter Meeting in Washington last month, signed a bill Friday that allows trained teachers to bring firearms into the classroom.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/File

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South Dakota on Friday became the first state since the shootings in Newtown, Conn., to allow teachers to carry a gun into the classroom.

The bill, signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R), does not mandate that teachers carry guns. Instead, it allows any school board to create a so-called “school sentinel program” that involves the local county sheriff and establishes a firearms- training course for employees in K-12 schools.

Eighteen states allow firearms on school grounds, according to a tally by NBC News, but such policies are typically reserved for security personnel or volunteers. Only Utah allows teachers – who have concealed-carry permits – to bring guns in the classroom, though other states have considered expanding laws since the Newtown massacre, in which a gunman killed 20 children and six teachers.

Supporters said that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary showed the need for such a law. Many rural South Dakota schools are located far from emergency personnel, they said. But the rigorous training criteria – which are the same required of law enforcement in the state – might mean few teachers take advantage.

“My guess is this would be, for many people, an investment of time along the lines of getting a pilot’s license, something along that line of difficulty,” says Gabriel Chin, a professor at the University of California at Davis School of Law.


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