And sometimes, I get an email that I want to share with my readers. I got this email in response to my most recent post regarding the situation of Shirley Katz, the teacher who is suing her school in Oregon so she can carry her concealed firearm where she works.
I’m going to break the email into chunks and address them one at a time, mostly because it’s easier to follow that way.
Easy answer: I’m really curious what reasons were given when Oregon’s legislature threw out that bill banning concealed carry in any school. If they declared it was because they wanted schools to be permitted to decide for themselves, then I don’t think Ms. Katz should win. Let her transfer to a school that has different rules.
According to a friend in Oregon, the bill was tossed because state law explicitly states that employees are allowed to carry their concealed firearms in public buildings. As far as the 2nd sentence, I sort of agree. If the school is a private school, funded by the tuition fees of the students attending, the school board has the right to enact whatever policy they want. However, if the school board is elected by popular vote, and the bulk of school’s funding comes from state funds, then they should be accountable to the same laws that the rest of the state is accountable to.
More complicated response: Schools have traditionally been allowed to restrict activities that are entirely legal off school grounds. It really doesn’t matter why Ms. Katz wants to carry a gun, the main issue is why the state should override individual school district regulations on firearms when it chooses not to/can’t on items like dress code, allowing pregnant students to attend regular classes, or bringing purses or cell phones to school.
Actually, that touches on one of the issues I often have with public schools, which is their autocratic nature. To me, when a school receives the bulk of its funding via state money – your tax dollars – then that school is no different than any other government organization, and should thusly be held accountable to the taxpayers. If a school district decides to implement a dress code policy, they should have the approval of the majority of the parents in the school district before they enact that dress code. At the same, I don’t think that a school district should be allowed to have policies that contradict state or federal laws.
A secondary issue is whether the schools could penalize people for firing guns on campus, even if they couldn’t prohibit people from bringing them. (Like some schools ban cell phone use but not cell phones.)
Well, they wouldn’t need to – in most jurisdictions that I’m aware of, it’s illegal to discharge a firearm outside of designated target ranges unless it’s in self-defense or for hunting. So passing a school regulation that punishes people for shooting a gun would be redundant in most situations, because (generally) shooting a gun at people is a crime anyway.
A third issue might be, if concealed carry permits override the “no guns” regs, then why not open carry permits? In which case, all specific school regulations on fire arms should be removed because all that’s left is covered by blanket school regs banning people from breaking state and federal laws in general. (Nearly, anyway. I think they’d still be able to ban authorized sales of firearms under ‘no conducting outside businesses on school property’, but that’s about it.) Oregon certainly has the power to do that, but if I were the district court judge, I’d send this straight to the state supreme court rather than try to make a statement at a lower level.
I’ve mentioned that I’m a fan of open carry, and I wouldn’t mind seeing in this situation. I also wouldn’t mind if schools were forced to remove some of their zero-tolerance policies, because 1) they’re often redundant, and 2) bringing a squirt gun to class should not result in expulsion. For example, in Oregon it’s already illegal for a minor to posses a gun without the express consent of a parent; and then only for legal activities such as hunting or target shooting. Also, that possession only applies to rifles and shotguns – minors are not allowed to posses handguns.
But say she does win, what would this mean for schools that have security checks? It’s not exactly concealed if you set off alarms, nor if you suddenly stop being required to go through metal detectors or empty your purse — at the very least, everyone would know that you have a permit and have informed the school of that fact. Also, just because an individual would be allowed to bring a gun to school doesn’t mean she isn’t still banned from bringing other contraband that might show up during the existing checks. Would the state help fund extra training for security personnel to address this, if needed? If not, do those schools have to care that not funding it themselves circumvents the spirit of the permit?
Off the top of my head, if a school were to allow teachers to carry concealed, it should be via a program similar to the Federal Flight Deck officer program – which allows airline pilots to carry handguns in flight. A pretty simple solution would be to have a separate entry for teachers, and a list of teachers who have licenses – then they get screened for all the standard contraband. It’s also worth noting as an aside that concealed carry permit holders are usually among the most law-abiding citizens you’ll ever meet. It wouldn’t exactly be difficult to train someone to check a employee ID badge against a list, and then give them a pat search/purse check.
Also, what would a win mean for an 18-year-old student with a permit? IMB, if a state-issued permit overrides school regulations for teachers and visitors, then it also ought to for students. But I wouldn’t envy whoever gets to explain that at the next school board meeting.
Very few states allow people under the age of 21 to apply for concealed carry permits – Oregon is not one of those states. In Oregon, an 18 year old is quite expressly forbidden by state law from carrying a concealed firearm. If this were to become a nationwide issue, I would actually support raising the age for concealed carry permits country-wide to 21.
Hope I answered your questions – this issue is a complicated one, in no small part because my generation has been indoctrinated with the mantra of Guns in Schools = Bad for the great bulk of our lives. Having been in high school when Columbine occurred, I suppose it’s only natural.
But it’s also not right. While the media would love for you to believe otherwise, there is a huge difference between an adult with a concealed carry permit bringing their firearm to school, and a 17 year old kid with a Hi-Point tucked into his waistband.