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Missouri budget bill includes funds for AI weapon detection systems in schools


The Missouri legislature passed a $51 billion fiscal 2025 state budget Friday, including funding to implement firearm detection software in schools.

The budget still has to be signed by Gov. Mike Parson.

The bill would allot $2.5 million for gun-detection software. The Department of Public Safety must certify and provide school districts with a list of approved software before Aug. 1.

The bill states the software vendor must pass certain requirements to be certified as an approved vendor. Those include the vendor being designated as a qualified anti-terrorism technology under the federal SAFETY Act, vendors must directly manage the program by constantly monitored operations centers staffed with trained analysts to communicate a possible threat as soon as possible and the software must be developed in the United States without the use of third-party data.

Vendors must also be able to integrate the system to be used with existing security cameras in school districts and the school district and state will split the cost.

One AI detection system used in 42 states is ZeroEyes. ZeroEyes was founded in 2018 by a team of former Navy SEALs and technologists following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting. The idea behind the technology was to protect the public from facing similar active shooter circumstances.

"We detect guns every single week," ZeroEyes cofounder Sam Alaimo said. "Some are real, some are not real. We've had detections that have led to arrests of guns where they shouldn't be like parking lots, subway platforms, schools, etcetera."

The system uses AI to detect brandished firearms within the view of any camera equipped with the software. According to ZeroEyes' website, the software can detect guns and notify police officers within two to three seconds.

ZeroEyes' software can analyze more than 36,000 pictures per second from its clients' surveillance feeds. If a gun is suspected, the image is sent to the ZeroEyes Operation Center, where a specialist will confirm if it is a gun or not. The AI software is only able to detect guns and do not have facial recognition or voice recordings.

Mount Pulaski Community Unit School District 23 in Illinois uses the ZeroEyes system.

"How could our community sleep with themselves... live with themselves... if something happened and we had the ability to put in systems to spot it?," Mount Pulaski Superintendent Fred Lamkey said.

The school district's school resource officer said that while the software is technology, there is a humanity aspect to it.

"If there's ever a situation where our cameras go down on our end or their system goes down for a period of time, they're letting us know real-time," SRO and Logan County Sheriffs Office Sgt. Joshua Pharis said.

The software also helps make his job more manageable.

"We have about 500 students and two campuses. That being said, I can't be everywhere," Pharis said.

In April, Columbia Public Schools approved a bid with Communications Technologies Inc. for a weapons detection system. The cooperation will provide the district with Opengate weapon detection systems, which can detect weapons like guns, knives, brass knuckles and razor blades while ignoring items like keys, cellphones and jewelry.

CPS spokesperson Michelle Baumstark wrote in an email that if the district were to consider implementing the AI software, it would be in addition to the current layers of protection in place. She said the district plans to have the systems in place for the start of the 2024-2025 school year.

Kansas is also debating implementing AI detection software. If approved by the governor, the state could offer up to $5 million in grants for schools to use the software.

Alaimo said the price of the software is comparable to standard security practices.

"If you compare us to metal detectors, bulletproof glass, security guards, we're a fraction of the cost," he said. "We're significantly less expensive because we're software-based."

According to data from the publication Education Week, there have been 16 school shootings resulting in injury or death in 2024 so far.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics

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Gabrielle Teiner


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