Schools fortify gun ban

Sunday, October 12, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:00 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The General Assembly’s approval of a new conceal-and-carry law has leaders of some Boone County school districts examining their gun policies.

While the law — temporarily blocked by a St. Louis judge on Friday — prohibits people from carrying hidden guns into schools without the consent of a school board or school official, it allows guns on school property so long as their owners keep them in vehicles and refrain from brandishing the weapons.

Existing policy in Columbia School District prohibits weapons anywhere on school property, Assistant Superintendent Chris Mallory said. The only exceptions, he said, are for police officers or for students or faculty who might want to bring in weapons — guns used during the Civil War, for example — as part of an approved class demonstration or project.

Elsewhere around the county, school officials are taking action to keep guns away.

Hallsville Superintendent Tom Baugh said that while his district already abides by provisions of the Safe Schools Act of 1996, he plans to present two proposed gun policies to the board of education on Tuesday.

The language of the proposed policies — which come from groups of attorneys in Kansas City and St. Louis that represent school districts — is different, but the meanings are virtually the same, Baugh said. Both prohibit firearms and other weapons on school premises and extend the ban to off-campus activities that students might be associated with.

“I am sure that one of the two policies will pass, and then we will be posting signs on all doors to make students aware,” Baugh said.

Bill View, superintendent of the Harrisburg School District, said his school board will meet Monday to discuss a policy prohibiting all firearms and weapons on school property, including buildings, grounds and parking areas.

“It’s unfortunate that the legislators constructed a bill in such a way that school districts have to pass policies to keep guns out of schools,” View said.

He added the punishment should be severe enough to discourage weapons in schools.

In Centralia, Superintendent Glenn Brown said that while the district already has a policy prohibiting any weapon on school property, he’s concerned that the new law might shift the burden of enforcement from police to school administrators. “If something goes wrong,” he said, “we are responsible for it.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Bob Holden on Thursday called on the legislature to pass a law making it a felony to carry a concealed weapon on school property. At a Kansas City news conference, Holden said the new law is full of loopholes.

“I am deeply concerned about the safety of our children in schools,” Holden said. “That is why I vetoed this legislation. This ill-conceived legislation has many flaws, but one of the most significant is the way it weakens our safe school laws. I call on legislators to immediately fix this problem when the legislative session begins in January.”

Rep. Larry Crawford, R-Centertown, said Holden is being misinformed on the contents of the conceal-and-carry law. But he stopped short of saying he would oppose the governor’s call for some changes to the law.

“It’s obvious he doesn’t understand how things work at all,” Crawford said. “I don’t think he’s getting good advice on the issue.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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