On Monday, lawmakers returned to the statehouse to resume their legislative session for a short session to address the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of using this opportunity to address the rise in domestic violence risk since the pandemic began, lawmakers have advanced an amendment that would require all school protection officers, which include teachers, administrative staff, and volunteer retired law enforcement officers, to carry firearms.
The amendment would put more guns in schools and make the dangerous practice of arming teachers and other school staff more prevalent in Missouri, which research shows would put more children at risk of gun violence in schools. The amendment passed the Missouri House Committee on Regulatory Oversight and Reform as part of Senate Bill 600 last night and is expected to pass as part of Senate Bill 774 this afternoon.
“Our lawmakers have two and a half weeks in session to deal with a pandemic, and they are using this time to sneak in bills to put more guns in our schools,” said Karen Rogers, a volunteer with the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Every day, we’re seeing news about the rise in domestic violence calls since the stay-at-home orders were issued, but lawmakers refuse to address ways to keep those women and children safe during this time.”
“Our country is in a state of emergency. Our lawmakers shouldn’t be using this crisis as an opportunity to put more guns in schools; it feels sticky and untrustworthy as a student who isn’t even able to go to school at the time this legislation is being passed,” said Celena Schmolzi, a volunteer with David H. Hickman High School Students Demand Action. “Regardless of their timing, research shows that this type of legislation is counterintuitive and puts students, especially students of color, at risk. This is not what students want or need.”
A Kansas City Star report showed domestic violence calls have jumped 22 percent in Kansas City under stay-at-home orders, while the St. Louis County Police saw a 17 percent increase from last year in domestic violence calls in March and the first two weeks of April, and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department reported a 43 percent increase in domestic assault cases.
This rise comes as advocates across the state raise concerns about women and families being forced to quarantine with their abusers. Gun sales have also surged in Missouri, and research shows that when a domestic abuser has access to a gun, they are five times more likely to kill their victim.
Research has found that increasing armed presence in schools is associated with an increase in middle school discipline rates, a decrease in high school graduation rates, and a decrease in college enrollment. Arming more teachers would create a culture of fear for students of color, who are already subject to harsher discipline than their white classmates. Students of color could be severely disadvantaged if more guns were brought into schools.
Over 1100 Missourians are shot and killed every year, giving Missouri the fifth highest rate of gun deaths in the United States. From 2014 to 2018, 99 women were fatally shot by an intimate partner in Missouri. The rate of gun deaths in Missouri increased 56 percent in the last decade, compared to an 18 percent increase nationwide.
Statistics about gun violence in Missouri are available here, and information on how Missouri’s gun laws compare to other states’ overall is available here.
If you have any questions, or would like to speak with volunteers with Missouri Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action or survivors of gun violence, please don’t hesitate to reach out.