Guns in Schools Policy Debate Changing the Security Outlook
October 1, 2007
by Joseph P. Tartaro
Change, especially change involving public policy on firearms, doesn’t come quickly. But changefor logical or illogical reasonsis something that dogs our everyday lives.
Sometimes the process takes years with movement toward a new policy almost imperceptible. That’s what seems to be taking place these days with respect to guns in and around schools.
It wasn’t so long ago that school boards and teachers’ unions as well as university student governments and administrations were so dead set against guns on or near campuses and school grounds that they adopted policies that disarmed security forces and even police who were on duty.
Some of their warped thinking is part of the legacy of the turbulent 1960s and the shooting of Kent State students by Ohio National Guardsmen.
Taking their illogical reasoning to extremes they helped forge almost universal state prohibitions and the federal Gun-Free Schools Zones Act. In some states, legally armed residents are allowed to carry near school grounds and campuses when dropping off or retrieving students or on other business. Taken to its extremes, this led to the absurd “zero tolerance” policy.
Almost everyone has heard of cases where the zero tolerance policies have been pursued to extremes.
Two such cases surfaced in September. In one, grammar school officials ordered the disarming of the school’s buccaneer mascot symbol. In another, fifth-grade students were required to remove from their hats tiny soldier figures that had even tinier guns.
The almost constant appearance of reports of such stupid policies continues, but there are also signs that change is in the air.
Rational people who have given serious thought to the string of mass killings in schools and universities in recent years have realized that by disarming student bodies, instructors and administratorsas well as security forcesthere was n o one to respond promptly to defend against attacks. They have realized that criminals and lunatics who want to break the laws against murder and assault don’t worry about obtaining guns illegally or breaking the laws about bringing their guns into schools and universities. These predatory criminals also realize that they don’t have to worry about any of their intended victims being armed for defense.
Slowly, the general public is also coming to realize that when such random heinous crimes have been deterred or the perpetrators captured, it was only because someonea vice principal in one case, a restaurateur in another, some students in still othersunderstood guns or managed to obtain guns.
Change is slow in coming, but the signs are there even as many support the adoption of new policies which would allow licensed and trained students, instructors and school officials to carry for defense in schools and on campuses.
Some of the signs of change appear subtle.
The Daily Iowan reported recently that after an hour-long debate on Sept. 4, the University of Iowa Faculty Council voted in favor of arming campus police.
By a 12-3 vote, the council solidified its support of a recommendationfrom officials at the three Iowa regent universitiesto give guns to the university force.
In voting for such a policy, they were following changes which have been approved in recent years at many other colleges and universities, even several in New York state.
But the UI review of public-safety was prompted by the Virginia Tech shootings in April.
At about the same time, The Albuquerque Tribune reported that the New Mexico city’s school board voted to let cops carry guns.
However, police will not be wearing arms immediately. The board’s president, Paula Maes, said it will likely be months before officers see any changes in the district’s gun policy as they wait for advice from the state Attorney General’s Officeor word from the Legislaturesanctioning a full-fledged school police department.
Change is also subject to the outcome of court cases.
Gun Week Senior Editor Dave Workman had written two stories for this issue which I will abbreviate in this column.
The first involves a public school teacher in Oregon who is challenging the Medford School District’s prohibition against firearms on campus. She is getting help from the Oregon Firearms Federation, according to Workman.
The teacher, identified by her attorney only as “Jane Doe,” wants to be armed out of fear of her ex-husband, against whom she has a restraining order.
Attorney Jim Leuenberger of Lake Oswego told Workman that the teacher’s concealed carry permit became an issue at the end of the last school year. She was approached by the principal at Medford High School, who apparently had learned she was licensed to carry. Threatened with job loss if she were to be found carrying on campus, she agreed not to, Leuenberger said.
Now, however, the teacher wants that situation to change, and she may have state law on her side, the attorney said.
Here’s what Oregon law says:
“(1) Except as expressly authorized by state statute, the authority to regulate in any matter whatsoever the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation or use of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition, is vested solely in the Legislative Assembly.
“(2) Except as expressly authorized by state statute, no county, city or other municipal corporation or district may enact civil or criminal ordinances, including but not limited to zoning ordinances, to regulate, restrict or prohibit the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation or use of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition. Ordinances that are contrary to this subsection are void.”
Leuenberger contends that even under the federal Gun Free School Zones Act, there are exceptions for citizens licensed to carry concealed handguns. He also noted that the teacher has good reason to be concerned for her safety, because she is convinced someone had been in her home uninvited, and she believes it was her ex-spouse.
Michigan Bill Filed
Workman’s final story concerns a Michigan lawmaker who has actually filed legislation which would allow legally armed and trained teachers to carry on public school campuses with permission of affected school administrators.
Of course, Michigan anti-gunners are “up in arms” over the proposal, but the general media has focused on the story and that will promote public debate which can also hasten changes in public policies.
The idea comes from Michigan Rep. David Agema (R-Grandville), an Air Force veteran and retired airline pilot, and it immediately drew criticism from the state’s largest teachers union.
Agema told Gun Week’s Workman that, “It’s not about guns, it’s about keeping our kids safe.”
“This doesn’t allow every teacher with a CCW to carry a gun in the classroom,” he said. “That’s been the misconception that has been put in my local newspaper here.”
According to several Michigan news agencies, the teachers’ union statement was terse: “We are firmly against this House bill that will allow concealed weapons in the schools. We need weapon-free schools to keep our schools safe.”
But Agema’s HB 5162, which is co-sponsored by 15 other Republicans, has been getting national attention, and the idea long ago gained traction within the gun rights community. Agema’s legislation does not require anyone to carry a firearm, it only provides that option.
Requirements of the bill make the carrying of firearms by teachers, administrators or other school employees far more regulated than the critics would suggest, with special training in addition to that required for a carry license.
Thus it is clear that the parameters of the public debate over guns in and near schools are changing. Return to Archive Index