The most sweeping new law is in Texas, where the Protection of Texas Children Act went into effect on Sept. 1. Teachers who want to serve as armed school marshals must have a license to carry a concealed weapon, pass a mental health evaluation and be trained specifically to respond when someone with a gun is inside a school shooting students.
The program is still being developed, and unlike the Arkansas effort, teachers would have to keep the guns under lock and key and only one school marshal would be allowed for each 400 students.
“The idea that a single relatively untrained teacher is going to bring this person who is heavily armed down is a stretch,” said Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. “The idea is to keep the guns from the hands of the shooter.”
Those who have spent their lives in the classroom have similar concerns.
“No teacher that I know of could ever receive enough training,” said Steve Gunter, a retired history teacher in Bentonville, Ark.
“If I had a gun in my room with some of these students where I taught? They’d get it from me and shoot me,” he said. “They’d say, ‘Mr. Gunter, you gave me an F? Here’s your F.’ ”
But here is the terrible truth about guns in schools or anywhere they are not in the control of lawmen and security officers: They raise, not diminish, the prospect of death and mayhem. If you carry a gun or keep one in the desk, at bedside or in the glove compartment, the chances go up that some circumstance will cause you to use it, perhaps purposefully but also mistakenly or accidentally. Nowhere is that more true than in schools, where confrontations and disagreements, from kids bringing pistols to school to hallway fights and disputes with teachers, are everyday occurrences. They rarely end in killings.
... A sign that shows up at all the gun rallies, again last weekend in Washington, says: “Guns Save Lives.” They sometimes do, but of the 33,000 gun deaths each year in the United States—the second highest rate in the world after Mexico—not one occurs where there is a vacuum of guns.
Yes, the 14 that have a commission started their security detail Friday. We are working with legislators to create a better system that will set a high training standard yet allow the local school board to decide if they want armed security and who they want on the security team. Thank you for your fair coverage of this issue.
“The sensational headlines are ‘Arming school teachers,’” Lake Hamilton School District Superintendent Steve Anderson said Friday. “We have no teachers or building-level administrators that are licensed as security officers and never have in our 20-year history of having this program.”
Jerry Guess, superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District, said that although his district is one of those licensed to arm employees, he has no interest in doing so.
“I’m one of those people that think if you’re on the campus and you have a weapon, you should be a duly licensed law enforcement agent,” he said.
The Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies is meeting this morning to hear appeals from Clarksville and Lake Hamilton that they continue to be allowed to have employees licensed as security guards for the purpose of having a gun on campus.
A handful of districts have availed themselves of this loophole to the prohibition of guns on campus. But an attorney general's opinion this year said the law didn't allow it and the licenses were suspended. Some districts get people qualified, but keep weapons in a locked place. Clarksville wanted to put 20 people with concealed weapons in its five schools.
Schools may hire outside law enforcement as "resource officers" and they may carry guns, but school districts have said this is too expensive. Lake Hamilton said, however, that its two full-time officers — private security employed by the district and not regular law officers —- cost almost $45,000 a year each.
David Koon is on hand and will report. Clarksville is arguing for a grandfather rule. Let it and others keep existing licenses, but grant no more. I don't think you can grandfather law violations, however.
UPDATE: The Board voted to revoke both Clarksville's and Lake Hamilton's previous licenses. The vote was 3-2 on Clarksville, with an abstention from a member who wasn't present for the beginning of the debate. Lake Hamilton's long status prompted a great deal of discussion and efforts to cut it some slack, but ultimately its permits also were revoked 3-2.
Legislators and school officials have said they'll seek a solution for schools that want to have armed staff in the legislative session if necessary. Lake Hamilton said it's a 20-minute response time to school for regular police agencies and many people live in their district because they feel secure. One armed security guard is on duty at all hours. There's a team of three to five others on campus who have commissions, but their guns are kept in a locked "response" office.
Defenders of gun use argued that the law prevented taking back a privilege previously granted. But the attorney general's office countered that wasn't so. The districts can't be punished for past actions, but the licenses can be revoked, he said.
RELATED POINT: The gun proponents are arguing for the schools to arm in the name of "local control." But the most ardent gun proponents passed — and continue to defend — an NRA-backed state law that strips home rule on gun laws from local governments. What they really mean is they want local control only when it equates to more guns.
UPDATE II: A wrinkle: The Board voted 3-2 not to revoke a commission for Cutter-Morning Star. The difference was that board member Jason Curtis of Ashdown, a police sergeant, had not participated in the Clarksville and Lake Hamilton votes, which ended 2—2, but the chairman broke the tie to revoke their permits. He voted not to revoke and, thus in a 3-2 vote, Cutter was allowed to keep a permit for two years. This happened even though all board members, including Curtis, agreed that school districts were not private businesses and thus, under a strict reading of the law, not allowed to have staff licensed as security guards. Assistant Attorney KaTina Hodge observed that the vote was inconsistent with what was done on Clarksville and Lake Hamilton.
Cutter Superintendent Nancy Anderson said the district was too poor to contract with a law agency for security. She said it wasn't fair her district couldn't take up security on its own when others could afford to pay. She said she's no hero, but she and others would run to protect students with guns if a threat emerged. "I'd rather have something other than a stapler to throw at somebody with a gun."
Board member Curtis, who abstained on Lake Hamilton because he hadn't heard the whole debate, had nonetheless remarked during the discussion that "there is the intent of the law and there is the letter of the law." He asked the board to consider the "common sense" of taking away permits previously granted. "I'd much rather see the safety of the students taken into consideration," he said.
The contradictory vote immediately raised equal protection issues.
UPDATE III: The attorney general's office said the board can rescind its earlier votes and reconsider Lake Hamilton and Clarksville. If that happens and Curtis votes as he's indicated, all would receive 3-2 approval because there'd be no tie and Chairman Ralph Sims' vote — which went against the permits — would not be necessary.
UPDATE IV: It's happening. Clarksville got a 3-2 vote that cleared revocation of its permit. By a similar vote, the board rescinded its earlier suspension of Clarksville's 14 permits (six more were in the pipeline but withdrawn). And, finally, by the same 3-2 vote, it gave Clarksville the same privilege it had earlier given Cutter-Morning Star — two-year licensure with revocation at the end if the legislature doesn't act to clarify the situation. Shortly after, the board did the same series of 3-2 votes for Lake Hamilton.
UPDATE V: With the issue resolved, the board consolidated other pending appeals. Suspensions were lifted and two-year extensions were given to Ashdown, Concord, Lee County, Little Rock, Nettleton, Poyen, Pulaski County, Texarkana, Westside and Fort Smith. Several of these districts get permits years ago but don't use them, including Little Rock and Pulaski County, to arm staff members. Vote 4-1.
Those with permits now have essentially been grandfathered for two years. The Board voted unanimously to accept no more applications for licensure of staff members to carry guns. Thus, if there is a building desire for armed school staff members, legislative action WILL be required.
Jack Acre of Little Rock led the opposition to approving permits for school staff members. He was joined by Joey Smith of Searcy in the 2-2 votes where Chairman Sims joined them. The three votes for allowing guns were Curtis, Jess Odom of Searcy and Davis Orsburn of Cotter. Sheriff James Shourd of Searcy was absent.
The T-Shirt launcher will not be used for this Saturday’s football game and a decision regarding any further use will be made in the future. The safety and well-being of all fans and personnel attending Razorback events remains of paramount importance to Razorback Athletics and the University of Arkansas."
"I didn’t vote for or against any of that stuff, I wasn’t up there,” he said. “But I would be the biggest hypocrite in the world if I blasted everything they did about stimulus and congratulate one of the stimulus projects to help 20,000 Arkansans and put all those people to work.”
“If it wasn’t for the stimulus, you wouldn’t be getting any of this water,” he said.
[Democratic] Sen. Elliott: many schools without weapons have also had no shooting incidents. Difficult to draw clear correlation that arms are deterrent.
Can't eval. a syst. merely on basis of what might go wrong, also have to consider what might go right. -[Republican] Rep. Alexander on armed schl staff
In Judiciary Committee today hearing testimony on why we need armed teachers and Commissioned Security Officers in our Schools. I say yes.
Private security guards not as well trained as the Clarksville school teachers & administrators participating according to Dr David Hopkins.
Response time to our school is 20 minutes. Studies show a person is shoot every 10 sec. in these situations
Lake Hamilton sup. says school security plans, including decision to arm staff, are not "one size fits all."
After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Hutchinson became interested in arming school personnel, he said. He was invited to attend an “active shooter” training and - using a rubber bullet-loaded pistol - he mistakenly shot a teacher who was confronting a “bad guy.”That would include, presumably not choosing Jeremy "Batman" Hutchinson to be among those packing heat.
The experience gave Hutchinson some pause, but he still supports giving schools the authority to decide how best to secure their campuses.
"I just felt like with what's going on in many of the public sectors where there seems to be a lot of shootings we need to take the same stance that we do in church on Sunday for our kids Monday through Friday," says Pastor Perry Black.
Pastor Black has armed security during Sunday service, but now his school will be seeing the same thing five days a week. He posted some signs in front of the Arkansas Christian Academy in Bryant that read, “Staff is armed and trained. Any attempt to harm children will be met with deadly force.”
It is also unlawful to possess a firearm upon the property of public or private schools, public or private college or upon a school bus.UPDATE: The school has responded by e-mail that the law on guns in school doesn't apply to churches. I do recall that the 2013 legislature, in opening churches to guns had to adopt additional legislation to make it clear that guns would be allowed in houses of worship that also operated schools. I had thought that was merely to protect gun carrying in the churches. But no. The school is right. The legislation explicitly authorizes concealed weapons in church schools. The thrust of legislative debate at the time was to not have the presence of a school bar congregational gun packing. Sponsor Bryan King said he was just trying to clarify the church language. Perhaps sponsor King now would like to clarify this. Another unexpected gun in the woodpile, like the little old gun possession clarification that some are now using to allow unfettered open and concealed carry, without necessity of a permit.
It is a defense that at the time of the act:
The person is in his own dwelling or place of business or on property in which he has a possessor or proprietary interest.
The person is a law enforcement officer, prison guard, or member of the armed forces, acting in the course and scope of official duties.
The person is, by request, assisting a law enforcement officer, prison guard, or member of the armed forces acting in the course and scope of his official duties.
The person is a licensed security guard acting in the course and scope of his duties.
The person is taking part in a school approved educational or sporting activity.
They plan to turn out in force carrying weapons at 9 a.m. Aug. 24 in Fort Smith, where the local police chief apparently agrees that new legislation viewed by most legislators as a technical correction actually opened the door to unlimited open carry
The group known as Arkansas Carry has announced it will "host the first legal armed citizen assembly in decades (possibly the first such armed gathering since the Civil War) in Fort Smith."
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has said Act 746 did not legalize open carry, but merely redefined a "journey" under long-standing law about weapons possession. The gun fetishists have rejected this interpretation. Some legislators even say they were in on the trick all along and intended for this bill to legalize open carry. That's contrary to what other sponsors say, however, and some indication of a widespread belief along those lines lies in the legislature's defeat of a pure open carry bill.
Arkansas Carry quotes Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey as saying his department would not enforce the act based on McDaniel's opinion and also quotes him as saying Prosecutor John Settle believed that merely carrying a weapon unconcealed is not enough to cause an arrest. Under McDaniel's opinion carrying a weapon is legal only on a journey outside one's county.
The one-hour walk will begin on the east side of Fort Smith at Massard Road and Zero Street. Only members of Arkansas Carry will be allowed to participate, said organizer Steve Jones in an article he's posted on-line.
When a state regulatory board decided to suspend licenses granted to allow school staff to carry weapons in school on account of legal problems with the certification, the board was told about 60 school employees statewide, including 14 from Clarksville alone, would be affected. Not many when you consider Arkansas has nearly 300 school districts and almost a half-million students.
But where there's not a problem, there's always somebody with a gun who thinks more guns is a solution. Enter Faulkner County Sheriff Andy Shock and Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland. The Log Cabin Democrat reports that they've been out lobbying the Mount Vernon-Enola School Board about a plan to put school administrators through the 110-hour law enforcement officer training program. Then, as certified law officers like other reserve deputies, they could carry guns in school. Shock proposes only to arm administrators. Questions about uniforms, open carry and other details are yet to be worked out as a "conversation" begins with the school board. Said Shock:
“It’s a controversial issue, and I’ve taken some heat over it, which I’m willing to do, because I feel it’s the right thing to do.”
Yes indeed. It takes a really brave politician to advocate more guns in Arkansas. And in this same not-serious vein: Surely, given all the praying that's encouraged by visiting evangelists in the Conway School District, they have less need of the sheriff's offer of additional security.
Just to show you how controversial this is, Republican attorney general candidate Leslie Rutledge is already out with a statement praising the sheriff.
Local law enforcement working closely with local government to solve a local problem is the right approach to Arkansas’s school safety issue. A local solution tailored to each community’s unique situation is always better than a one size never fits all big government approach.”
Her news release identifies neither the "problem" nor the "big government approach" that figures into the discussion of more guns in Mount Vernon-Enola.
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