Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a bill to allow concealed guns in schools for permit-holders this afternoon, just hours after it landed on his desk.
The bill, Senate Bill 59, had become a nationwide controversy; Michigan’s Republican-led Congress passed the bill just hours before the tragic shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 children and 7 adults dead.
The bill would have allowed people to carry concealed guns into formerly “gun-free zones,” such as sports arenas, bars, churches, hospitals, casinos, and yes, schools. To get the permit, gun-owners would need to complete 8 hours of additional gun training and fire at least 94 rounds at a firing range.
Snyder says that he vetoed the bill because of a loophole. The bill includes a provision allowing private property owners to post signs prohibiting guns on their property. But public schools do not have private owners.
“While we must vigilantly protect the rights of law-abiding firearm owners, we also must ensure the right of designated public entities to exercise their best discretion in matters of safety and security,” said Snyder in a statement.
After Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, many groups began calling for the governor’s veto, including the Michigan Education Association, the Michigan chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics, and the state leaders of the American Federation of Teachers. In one Michigan county, all 21 school superintendents signed an open letter asking Snyder to veto the bill.
On the other hand, many argued that schools would be safer if teachers were allowed to have guns. On Fox News Sunday, for example, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) said that tragedy could have been averted if the school principle had been carrying a gun.
“I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids,” he said.
According to Connecticut law though, people can carry guns on campus if they have permission from school officials to do so.
The Michigan bill, which passed 68-41 in the Republican-led House, originally aimed to close a loophole in the 2001 gun law. Gun-owners could openly carry weapons in these “gun-free zones”; hidden weapons were forbidden. Now that the bill has been vetoed, the old bill allowing open carrying of weapons will stand.
Coincidentally, that firearm bill was first introduced on April 21, 1999, the day after a school shooting at Columbine High School. The bill, which made it easier to carry guns, took over a year to pass and included these “gun-free zones” in order to get support.