Include public with decisions on gunsThe North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill Monday to allow North Dakota school boards to meet in executive session to allow designated persons to carry concealed firearms in school. House Bill 1215 now goes to the Senate, where we hope the bill is voted down.
The North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill Monday to allow North Dakota school boards to meet in executive session to allow designated persons to carry concealed firearms in school.
House Bill 1215 now goes to the Senate, where we hope the bill is voted down.
Parents, educators and elected officials have been in a renewed search for ways to keep children safe in schools since the murder of 20 children and six adults in December at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
One suggestion has been allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons should they ever need to protect students from an attacker.
This proposal is debatable. On one hand, an armed educator might be able to protect students and themselves in the event of a mass shooting.
On the other hand, having a gun does not automatically make a person capable of defeating an attacker.
Also, we need our teachers to be focused on teaching instead of worrying whether students can see their concealed firearms. It’s not easy to keep a gun concealed from a group of people you must work with closely every day for an entire school year.
Teachers physically interact with students — breaking up fights, for example, or simply receiving hugs — and those interactions would put armed teachers at special risk of revealing their weapons.
If the Legislature wants school boards to debate these serious risks and tradeoffs and reach their own decisions, we can live with that.
But North Dakotans cannot allow these debates and decisions to be made in secret when they have such significant effects on our children’s safety.
Parents have the right to know if they are sending their children to a school where teachers carry concealed firearms. The entire community must be included in any discussion on the matter.
There may be schools in North Dakota where arming teachers is an appropriate decision, but we should not allow school board members to make that call without first facing the public and explaining their rationale.
Bill proponents say school boards should make these decisions in secret to prevent possible attackers from knowing which teachers are carrying weapons and shooting those people first.
However, we can keep the decision process public without giving attackers a tactical advantage.
As North Dakota Newspaper Association attorney and lobbyist Jack McDonald said in a recent Forum News Service article, school boards could debate and decide the matter publicly, then instruct their superintendents to determine who, if anyone, can carry concealed firearms in a school.
Any time public officials are allowed to make decisions in secret, the public is put at risk. Carrying a gun anywhere is a massive responsibility and allowing concealed guns into schools is an important and complicated decision that the voting public has every right to be heard on.
North Dakota is blessed with strong open meetings and open records laws that protect the public. Let’s keep it that way.
(Editorials are the opinion of Jamestown Sun management and the newspaper’s editorial board)