Local leaders mostly oppose gun proposalHouse Bill 1215, which would allow North Dakota school boards to discuss changing their policies on guns in schools in closed session, has received mixed reviews from Jamestown Public Schools officials.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
House Bill 1215, which would allow North Dakota school boards to discuss changing their policies on guns in schools in closed session, has received mixed reviews from Jamestown Public Schools officials.
If passed, the bill would also give school boards the power to approve concealed carry permit holders to bring their concealed guns into schools.
“I think policy discussions, and most discussions of the school board, should be held in broad daylight,” said Roy Musland, chairman of the Jamestown Public School Board. “The public should be able to see what we’re saying, and whatever we say should be available to the public, on policy.”
Currently, North Dakota law considers anyone carrying a firearm at a public gathering to be guilty of a class B misdemeanor, though there are some exceptions, including law enforcement officers, on-duty members of the armed forces, and students and instructors at hunter safety classes.
Schools and school functions are explicitly noted as included under the term “public gathering.”
At Jamestown Public Schools, the school resource officer, who covers all the schools in the district, is armed, but in accordance with the existing law, no one else is, said Superintendent Bob Toso.
“It’s a terrible idea. I can’t imagine that anyone thinks that we should allow concealed weapons inside a school. It’s a terrible idea,” Toso said of the bill’s provision to allow concealed weapons in schools.
Jamestown’s officials have been talking about increasing security in and around the schools in the wake of the school shooting at Sandy Hook.
Possible precautions discussed earlier this month included installing cameras at building entrances, panic buttons that link to law enforcement and even buzzing in parents and visitors.
The discussions have not included the possibility of arming teachers, janitors or other school personnel.
“We’ve talked safety precautions, but never to that extent. And of course, right now it’s a moot point, because we can’t have concealed weapons in a school,” Toso said.
Musland said he believes the current law is a good one.
“We all have the right to bear arms, but this is a public school — in my opinion, we don’t need guns in a public school, other than trained professionals that are probably going to protect people,” Musland said.
Roger Haut, a member of the Jamestown Public School Board, said any general discussions about policy should be done in public.
However, he added, if the board did adopt a policy allowing people with permits to carry guns in local schools, discussions about which specific people have guns should be done in closed session — so that criminals would not know precisely who has weapons.
“I believe that if criminals, if they believe that there is a possibility of guns in schools that would somewhat deter crime — but I believe that education and drills for safety are paramount,” Haut said. “… we should be doing more education, and be doing more lockdown drills and stuff, so kids are prepared.”
Toso said he could understand concerns from people in rural school districts who might be further away from law enforcement, but still didn’t see the logic to adding guns to schools.
“Open session, closed session — it’s immaterial where the board discussion takes place, I hope we never have to have it,” Toso said.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be
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