Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Op Ed in the Register-Guard Newspaper: Hard to believe, but guns are legal in schools

As I've reported before, the extremist pro-gun lobby here in Oregon is pushing to allow hidden, loaded handguns to be carried into grade schools and college campuses.  They have already bullied the Newberg school system into reversing their no-gun policy.  Guns and schools don't mix.  There is no good reason why any non-law enforcement person needs to carry there.

To that point, yesterday I had an op-ed published in the local newspaper, the Register-Guard.  Here is a link:

Here is the text of the essay, in full:

People I’ve talked to are shocked to find out there’s no law against people bringing concealed, loaded handguns onto school campuses if they have a concealed handgun license in Oregon. 
Most schools have policies prohibiting guns on school property, but a recent Oregon Court of Appeals ruling has raised questions about their enforceability — and because most laws relating to guns must be approved by the Oregon Legislature and not by municipalities or other units of local government, those school policies prohibiting guns might not be binding. It is time for the state Legislature to address the issue. 
Incidents have happened. This March, in Walsenburg, Colo., a volunteer track coach with a concealed handgun license was on school grounds when he accidentally shot himself with his recently purchased handgun, nearly dying. Last September, a security guard here in Oregon lost his gun while patrolling schools in the Salem-Keizer School District. As far as I know, the gun was never recovered. In both cases, the gun was legal on school grounds. 
Thankfully, most concealed handgun license holders are trustworthy, law-abiding citizens, and will honor existing school policies. Perhaps that is the reason we have few incidents involving guns in Oregon schools. 
But if the gun lobby has its way, this will probably change. The gun lobby is pushing for schools to change their no-gun policies and is actively encouraging people to ignore school policies. It argues that having guns in schools will allow better protection against armed madmen. 
According to an April 27 Register-Guard article, roughly one in 25 Lane County residents now choose to arm themselves in public with a concealed handgun license, believing that having a gun hidden under their jacket or in their purse makes them safer. Never mind that research published in a November 2009 issue of the American Journal of Public Health found that carrying a gun actually increases your chance of getting shot by four and a half times. 
As a contributor to a blog called Kid Shootings, I’ve documented 580 shootings in the media from around the nation since the beginning of 2012 that involved around 800 children. Among those have been at least 22 different shootings at schools so far this year. Nearly all of those occurred because students had access to guns and brought them to school. Hundreds more reports are published each year of guns brought to school by children without having shots fired. These incidents are rarely the act of a madman, and the chance that a gun owner will be present at just the right time and place to stop the shooting is minuscule. 
The solution that I and other advocates suggest is to mandate safe storage of guns at home to keep kids from getting unsupervised access to them. 
The gun lobby, however, has a different solution. Last year Rep. Kim Thatcher, R-Salem, bullied the Newberg school system into reversing its no-gun policy by threatening endless lawsuits, which the school district could not afford. 
Don’t think the extremists will stop with Newberg. An attempt to pass a bill in this year’s Oregon legislative session, which would have given schools the authority to ban guns on school property, failed by a narrow margin. 
If a teacher sees someone at school with a gun under his jacket, she has no way to know if the person has a permit, what his intentions are, if he has any training in crisis situations, or if he has even fired a bullet (though many gun training classes offer live fire, it isn’t a requirement for a permit in Oregon). Compare this to police, who have mandated training with their weapons and crisis training, and whose duty it is to protect us. 
While most concealed handgun permit holders are law-abiding, every week I see articles of gun owners accidentally shooting children, allowing their guns to get into children’s hands, carelessly leaving their weapons unsecured, or acting out violently and killing people in cold blood. 
Having a concealed handgun license and walking on school grounds doesn’t magically change human nature and make a person more responsible. If that Salem security guard, trained in gun safety and carrying a gun for a living, isn’t able to keep his gun safe from students, how likely is it that every other concealed handgun license holder will be able to? 
If you wish to head off further attempts to allow guns in our schools, there are things you can do. Go to and sign petitions for our local school superintendents, join the Million Mom March and Ceasefire Oregon in a rally against gun violence at the Eugene Water & Electric Board Plaza at 2 p.m. on May 13, call your state legislators, contact your school board, and help spread the word. 
Tell them our children deserve to study and play in an environment free of firearms.