A Jackson County Circuit judge ruled Friday that the Medford School District can forbid a teacher from carrying a concealed handgun on school grounds.
English teacher Shirley Katz, 44, argued state law allows her to carry a concealed handgun for protection.
[Judge] Arnold said the issue before him was whether a school district can prohibit employees from carrying weapons by writing an employee policy. State law does not allow local governments to write laws restricting guns, but because the district had not enacted a law, Arnold ruled the district prevailed.
The reasoning here seems to be that Oregon state law does not expressly guarantee the right to concealed carry by preventing local jurisdictions from passing laws against concealed carry. My question for the judge is what other possible purpose could such a law have, other than to prevent local jurisdictions from infringing upon a right guaranteed by the state?
This is a rock and a hard place for the school district, and as a former teacher and a mother, I’m not unsympathetic to that. On the one hand, would I prefer teachers to have guns in case bad guys with guns show up and open fire on students? Yes. On the other hand, the body of public school teachers is not immune to poisonous, insane, and criminal people within their ranks. Teachers are brought up with noticeable frequency on sexual abuse charges regarding their students, for example. All it would take is one instance of a gun-carrying teacher turning out to be a psychopath who opens fire, and the particular school that had hired that person would be completely finished. (Although I frankly doubt that schools, especially in this state, are given to placing any importance at all on the former scenario of armed teachers helping to prevent school shootings.)
But it should not be a difficult issue for the state law. Either make an exception for school districts under the law, or enforce the law–that the right to carry arms shall not be infringed. Here’s what the law actually says:
166.173 Authority of city or county to regulate possession of loaded firearms in public places. (1) A city or county may adopt ordinances to regulate, restrict or prohibit the possession of loaded firearms in public places as defined in ORS 161.015.
(2) Ordinances adopted under subsection (1) of this section do not apply to or affect:
(a) A law enforcement officer in the performance of official duty.
(b) A member of the military in the performance of official duty.
(c) A person licensed to carry a concealed handgun.
(d) A person authorized to possess a loaded firearm while in or on a public building or court facility under ORS 166.370. [1995 s.s. c.1 §4; 1999 c.782 §8]
A city or county may not adopt ordinances to infringe upon the rights of a person licensed to carry a concealed handgun. A school district is not a legislative body, but it is a governmental one, as has been tested numerous times in free speech cases. In addition, the law also says:
166.170 State preemption. (1) Except as expressly authorized by state statute, the authority to regulate in any matter whatsoever the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation or use of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition, is vested solely in the Legislative Assembly.
(2) Except as expressly authorized by state statute, no county, city or other municipal corporation or district may enact civil or criminal ordinances, including but not limited to zoning ordinances, to regulate, restrict or prohibit the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation or use of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition. Ordinances that are contrary to this subsection are void. [1995 s.s. c.1 §1]
Oregon school districts are called, well, districts. If they are going to issue directives that have the force of law on their campuses, then they are making law in effect and most assuredly usurping the power of the state legislature. In addition, their directive does not apply to parents or visitors–why? Because they know they could never make it stick on people over whom they don’t have direct employment power. The net effect is, give up your concealed carry right or find another job. And as I say, I’m not unsympathetic to this position–all things being equal, “around your young children” is not where you want guns as a matter of routine. But all things aren’t equal when it comes to school shootings. The teacher in this case wants the gun for her personal safety and not as a test case for teachers prepared to fight back against potential shooters, but the implications of the precedent will presumably be the same. I hope this is overturned on appeal.
Update: Survey of the two school resource officers at Citizens’ Academy says: Teachers carrying would deter would-be shooters.