Mississippi teachers could soon begin carrying guns on school campuses after the Mississippi House passed an amended version of Senate Bill 2079 on Tuesday, March 7. The bill would allow schools to create a “School Safety Guardian Program” and grant participants immunity.
Mississippi Rep. Nick Bain, R-Corinth, introduced the bill on the House floor, saying it is similar to the Legislature’s 2016 Mississippi Church Protection Act, which allows houses of worship to adopt armed security programs.
“We are allowing for staff members, administrators, teachers to potentially carry guns if they are properly trained through the (Mississippi) Department of Public Safety,” Bain said on the House floor. “They have to go through a certain number of trainings and have to get licensed and certified according to our various statutes when it comes to concealed carry and enhanced carry and stuffs such as that.”
“So what this bill does is it creates an immunity statute that, if the school district participates in the training as laid out by the Department of Public Safety, the district will be immune if something happens while that employee is acting within the scope of the guardian program,” he added.
The Mississippi Board of Education voted in July to remove a 1990 policy that barred individuals with enhanced concealed carry permits from carrying guns in the state’s elementary and secondary public schools.
Now, Senate Bill 2079 would give a school’s governing body the authority to designate employees to carry guns on school campuses.
“The scope and purpose of each program shall include responding to an active shooter situation or other situation that would cause death or bodily harm on the school campus or in the immediate vicinity of the school campus,” the bill says. “The school safety guardian’s weapon shall always remain under his or her physical control on campus.”
Bain said that the change he made to the Senate version was to mandate the payments ranging from $100 to $500 per month for participants. The Corinth lawmaker said the Mississippi Department of Public Safety would foot the cost. Another change requires schools to present their training programs to the department of Public Safety for approval.
Mississippi Rep. Christopher Bell, D-Jackson, expressed concern about school safety with increased gun numbers.
“At the end of the day, won’t you agree that it is very dangerous that you can have a firearm in any classroom setting?” Bell asked Bain.
Bain replied by quoting a portion of the proposed statute requiring the “school safety guardian” to always have weapons under control or otherwise lose immunity.
“If a gun was given to somebody and if a gun was negligently used or taken from a staff member, the school district would lose their immunity on that, I do believe they would lose their immunity under this law, and what happens is that the administrators there, the superintendent have to be aware, have to make sure that their employees know that this is a very serious thing—when a gun enters that campus it cannot be removed or released without cause or a sight of an active short situation,” Bain said.
“I understand those concerns and I share those concerns; that is why we have the immunity to tell these administrators about the importance of keeping these guns safe.”
The bill would grant “civil liability for any action taken by the school safety guardian if the action in question occurs during the reasonable exercise of and within the course and scope of the designated School Safety Guardian’s official duties.”
The minimum qualifications required to qualify for the immunity the bill grants includes possessing a firearm license, going through firearms training once a year, and being first aid and CPR certified. The identities of teachers who qualify for the program are not subject to the Open Records Act and would be shielded from the public.
“Records relating to the identities of any person designated by the school’s governing body to serve as a School Safety Guardian shall be exempt from the provisions of the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983,” the bill says. It authorizes the Department of Public Safety to review gun programs that individual school districts establish and to establish guidelines for responding to active shooter situations.
The bill first passed in the Senate on Feb. 8 by a 39-13 vote, with the House passing its amended bill in a 79-35 vote on Tuesday. It will need to go back to the Senate for approval or additional work in conference between the two chambers before it can go to Gov. Tate Reeves’ desk.