HOMER, Mich. -- Lillian Fletcher Elementary School in the Calhoun County community of Homer recently went into lock down after a father carried a loaded gun into the school.
While it was in the father's legal right to do so, the incident is shedding light on a bigger debate across America: the right to bear arms and where and when it's appropriate.
Joseph Solis-Mullen brought his 9 mm pistol into Lillian the school Dec. 4 Friday afternoon while attempting to sign his son into class.
Mullen said his weapon was clearly visible. "It was right in front. I made sure my shirt was behind it," he said.
A school official told him openly carrying the gun was inappropriate because he was in a weapon-free zone, despite his concealed pistol license, Mullen said.
After a lot of confusion, Mullen left and returned Monday afternoon to discuss what happened with Homer Community School District Superintendent Robert Wright.
Mullen entered the school yet again with his gun on his waist.
"He [Wright] said if you don't disarm and take the weapon to your car right now, I'm going to lock the school down, because that's the school policy," Mullen said. "I had felt like I had been put unfairly in a situation where now I was being pressured to comply with a school procedure."
FOX 17 looked into school policy, and it prohibits visitors from possessing or storing a weapon of any kind while inside the school. However, there are exceptions:
- Weapons under the control of law enforcement personnel.
- Items approved by a principal as part of a class or individual presentation under adult supervision, if used for the purpose of and in the manner approved (working firearms and ammunition shall never be approved).
- Theatrical props used in appropriate settings.
- Starter pistols used in appropriate sporting events.
- Firearms that are lawfully stored inside a locked vehicle in school parking areas, if the district appropriately provides for student safety.
Superintendent Wright told FOX 17 Thursday that for now the policy will not change, adding that the first thing Homer Community Schools does when a weapon is seen is go into lock down.
However, in a recent court case in Michigan it was determined that a school does not have the authority to ask an individual on school grounds to leave if they have a valid CPL and are open carrying.
As for Mullen, he says he didn't carry his gun to spark controversy or to promote a political stance; he did it to keep himself, his son, and others safe because of recent mass shootings.
"Everybody wants to think it’s not going to be us, it’s not going to be here. And it's a very small chance," he said.
Mullen hopes he and the district can find a balance between student and staff safety and individual rights.
"The superintendent agreed wholeheartedly that there is a way that we can do both," he said. "It's something that needs to be answered in Lansing, but until Lansing can answer thata question definitively, I think it's up to local communities to get together and talk about what they want for their community."
So, is Mullen going to be charged? At this point no. Police tell us that while districts may have their own rules, they legally can't press charges when gun owners legally open carry.
Mullen says he is not sure if he'll be carrying at the school until the situation is resolved, he hopes during a meeting later this month. The Homer Community School District board will discuss the issue their meeting on December 21 at 7 p.m. in the high school media center.
Mullen is encouraging everyone both for and against open carrying in gun-free zones to come out, because he says that's the only way things will change.
The final question here is whether it is legal to carry a loaded gun into a Michigan school. The answer is yes, but you must have a valid concealed pistol license (CPL), and you must carry the gun openly so it can be seen by the public.