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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.

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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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