Court: Gun policies up to individual school districts

Posted at 10:32 PM, Jan 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-15 22:33:05-05

MICHIGAN — Public schools across the state can now set their own gun policies when it comes to open carry and concealed weapons in school buildings, essentially meaning they can outright ban guns on school property.

The court's ruling was a reversal of a decision to allow guns in schools and school sponsored events. It's a decision that's received a lot of heat from pro-open carry groups and support from some school administrators. Individual school districts not have the ability to ban guns from their grounds whether that's concealed or open carry. It's fueling the debate about whether or not firearms have any place in an educational setting.

In a unanimous decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided to reverse their decision allowing guns on school grounds. It is now up to individual school districts to decide whether or not to let guns inside their schools.

"School districts have a right and a responsibility to provide a safe and orderly environment for their students and they do not need to be put through the trials of interrupting education," said Dr. Michael Shibler, superintendent of Rockford Public Schools.

Dr. Shibler says he supports people owning guns, but is a strong voice for keeping them out of Rockford Public Schools whether concealed or not.

"When you go around the school district you will see in front of every building a red and white sign that says 'Weapon-Free Zone'," said Shibler. "I am a strong supporter of people having guns whether for sport or protection or hunting, but not to bring them into schools. Who is going to decide the emotional state of mind of someone bringing an open or concealed carry into the school?"

Pro-open carry groups disagree with the ruling, saying it puts schools at more of a risk.

"Signs are not enough," said Tom Lambert, president of Michigan Open Carry. "When you have a soft target you are begging for a problem. Signs out front saying there will be an armed resistance, whether or not anybody is carrying, is a step in the right direction."

Lambert says history sides with him on the issue, stating recent mass shootings have happened in gun free zones.

"Just because you don't see a firearm, do you automatically assume they aren't armed?" said Lambert. "Is that a valid assumption to make? That's a valid assumption to make until it's not and then the consequences are literally deadly. The person that's illegally concealing is the person we are truly interested in stopping."

Shibler says keeping guns out of schools is a step in the right direction.

"There is no fail-safe method available, but what I am trying to do at Rockford Public Schools is make sure we do everything we can to reduce any opportunity that children or staff could be harmed."

While there are many school districts that share a similar mindset to Dr. Shibler and want to keep guns out of schools, Lambert says he's already received calls from school administrators saying they're going to continue to allow CPL holders to carry in schools. Lambert says they're already working on an appeal to bring to the Michigan Supreme Court.