Lawmakers to close loophole in gun free schools law

Lawmakers to close loophole in gun free schools law

(Calif.) Civilians will no longer be allowed to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds even with permission from the district superintendent under a bill announced this week.

Legislators are aiming to close what they call a loophole in California’s current Gun Free School Zones law, which gives certain school personnel discretion to sign off on permitting those with a concealed  weapon license to take a gun onto school campuses, often in an effort to keep students safe.

“More guns in schools don’t make them safer, contrary to what our Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, believes,” Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, said during a press conference Monday. “Vast research shows that more guns on school campuses aren’t going to protect us from criminals, nor from wild animals.”

Indeed, a study published last year by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that policies allowing civilians to bring guns on to college campuses are unlikely to reduce mass shootings, but are likely to lead to more shootings, homicides and suicides on campus. A separate report released in 2014 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation found that of 104 active mass-shooter incidents from 2000 to 2012, fewer than 3 percent were stopped by armed civilians.

Debate over guns in schools flared once again when DeVos argued during her Senate confirmation hearing last month that states should be able to determine whether or not to allow guns on campus–noting that one elementary school in Wyoming may run into a scenario where teachers have to fight off grizzly bears.

Although Ray Schulte, superintendent for Park County School District No. 6 where the Wyoming elementary school is located, later told CNN that the schools will continue to rely on 10-foot mesh fences and bear spray, other rural districts around the country have argued that active shooter incidents would prove an actual threat to student safety. In those cases, they say, armed teachers would be beneficial to school safety.

In Pennsylvania, one lawmaker proposed a bill that would allow school districts to permit their staff, upon licensure and certification, to carry firearms on campus in order to provide a safety net for rural schools, where minimum police response times can be 25 minutes.

According to the California School Boards Association, more than 55 percent of districts in the state are considered small, and many of those are located in rural areas.

McCarty and proponents of his bill–which include the California Parent Teacher Association, Everytown Survivor Network and the California chapter of Moms Demand Action–point to statements from law enforcement that it can be difficult in the moment to distinguish between a law abiding citizen with a gun and an active shooter at the scene as evidence to why such laws would do more harm than good.

Currently, more than half of states allow concealed guns on campus at the district’s discretion. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 33 states introduced more than 80 bills in 2013 alone that would allow teachers and administrators to obtain conceal and carry gun permits on K-12 campuses.

Under McCarty’s bill, California would no longer be a part of that group which allows concealed weapons inK-12 schools for any reason.

“California has been a leader on this issue in keeping guns away from schools,” McCarty said. “We actually adopted a law a few years ago strengthening out gun free school zones, but it included a loophole allowing superintendents to allow an individual to carry a concealed weapon onto campus. AB 424 will close that loophole.”