Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday voiced strong opposition to a legislative proposal that would allow teachers to carry concealed guns at school.
"Putting loaded weapons in classrooms is quite simply the wrong approach to a serious issue that demands careful analysis and thoughtful solutions," Nixon said in a prepared statement.
More than two dozen state Republican lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors to legislation that would allow teachers and administrators with concealed-gun permits to carry weapons at work. The bill comes after 20 students and seven adults were killed by a shooter, who committed suicide, at a Connecticut elementary school.
Nixon has sent a letter to public school superintendents expressing his opposition to the plan. Missouri law currently prohibits concealed guns at schools unless approved by local school boards.
State Rep. Mike Thomson, Maryville, said Monday he is not among the bill's co-sponsors, had not yet read the legislation and would wait until more details emerge before making up his mind.
Though a determined supporter of gun rights, Thomson said he fears bringing up such legislation at the start of next month's 2013 session will prove bitterly divisive and divert attention away from other important issues.
"This is going to split the people," he said. "When you take a vote on something like this, it gets people upset. Personally, I don't see that (allowing properly trained and licensed educators to carry guns at school) would be a huge issue. But there's the hysteria of it."
Thomson said his tendency would be to the leave decision about whether or not to allow armed faculty members up to local boards.
"I don't think we want to create a mandate," he said. "That would be really silly.
I'm a gun supporter, but we need to use some reason and look at some of the other issues involved. Why aren't we talking about mental health and keeping these people (who commit gun violence) off the street? These issues come up, and then there is a knee-jerk reaction."
If educators are ultimately allowed to carry firearms, Thomson said they should probably be required to undergo "something more than just a few hours of training, and then you pick up your gun."
He added, however, that current calls for gun control are an outgrowth of "hysteria" following yet another mass shooting, and that Second Amendment rights should be respected.
"People who have mental issues, people who are carrying a grudge, they can always get a gun," Thomson said. "The current rage that we have right now against guns has actually put more guns on the street."
But when it comes to arming teachers, Thomson said he will wait and see how the debate develops before deciding how to vote.
Page 2 of 2 - "I'm going to have a hard time with this," said the former coach and teacher.
So will Nixon, a Democrat, if the guns-in-school bill proves popular with lawmakers. Both houses of the General Assembly will have veto-proof Republican majorities beginning next month.
But, for now, the governor, who served as the state's attorney general for 16 years, is leaving no doubt about where he stands. In opposing the bill, Nixon said Missouri already has effective laws in place for protecting students.
"Current law also allows local school boards to prohibit guns in their classrooms.
This is a time-tested and solid foundation that we should reinforce, not undermine," Nixon said. "That is why I have serious concerns about recently introduced legislation that proposes not only to arm teachers, but to do so by taking away the authority of local school districts to keep guns out of classrooms."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.