Mississippi public schools can develop their own gun policies



JACKSON, Miss — Amid a series of mass shootings across the United States, education officials in Mississippi have made it clear that school districts across the state can set their own rules for letting armed individuals with enhanced transportation licenses on school property.

After murders at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a 4th of July parade near Chicago and an Indiana mall, the Mississippi Board of Education voted Thursday to update a 1990 internal policy that banned any anyone other than law enforcement to carry arms on public school campuses.

Thursday’s step removed language from the 1990 policy, which the department said conflicted with Mississippi’s 2011 Enhanced Concealment Act. The department also argued that the old policy “predates any notable school shootings.”

“A school district may, at its discretion, prohibit or permit its employees holding an enhanced concealment carry license to possess weapons at school,” said Jean Cook, communications director for the Department of Education. from Mississippi.

The 2011 law allows people with enhanced carry permits to carry guns on public school campuses. Enhanced licenses require training and allow gun owners to transport to multiple locations where those with basic licenses cannot.

At the board meeting, Erin Meyer, general counsel for the Department of Education, said state law gives “local school districts the power and discretion to determine” their policies in material of weapons. School districts can decide for themselves whether or not employees who hold enhanced transport licenses can bring firearms onto school property.

School districts must also adopt policies that apply to non-employees. A 2013 state attorney general’s advisory argued that teachers or administrators can refuse to meet with armed persons in a “non-public” school zone. Mississippi K-12 schools are closed to the public, but a school concert, play or sporting event is open to the public, Cook said.

Patricia Ice, a volunteer with the Mississippi chapter of Moms Demand Action, a gun reform organization, urged school districts to adopt policies restricting guns on campus.

“Allowing teachers and members of the public to carry guns in our K-12 schools is a dangerous idea that will further jeopardize the safety of students and staff,” Ice said. “We need the adults in the room to make evidence-based policy decisions that will actually keep our children safe, rather than making decisions that will put more guns in their classrooms and put our children at risk. .”

Erich Pratt, senior vice president of Gun Owners of America, said the group fully supports policies allowing voluntary teachers, administrators and support staff to carry concealed weapons on school campuses.

“Not only will they serve as a practical deterrent against those contemplating acts of evil, but if someone still tries to attack a school, these policies will help neutralize the threat and mitigate any loss of life,” Pratt said.

At an Indiana mall in July, a bystander shot and killed a man who was carrying out a shooting that killed three people and injured two others. But it’s rare in the United States for an active shooter to be stopped in this way. From 2000 to 2021, less than 3% of the 433 active attacks in the United States resulted in a civilian response, according to the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University.

School districts are still required to have a policy regulating firearms on campus, but they have the authority to determine what those policies entail. Possessing a firearm on school property without an enhanced concealed carry permit is a felony under Mississippi law.

Research by Everytown, another gun reform organization, found that Mississippi is one of seven states that allow licensees to carry guns in schools.

The state Department of Education decided to adopt new language Thursday, but the conflict with state law arose based on legislation passed a decade ago. Asked about the timing of Thursday’s vote, Cook said the policy update was “part of an ongoing review of State Council policies to ensure they are all up to date and consistent with the applicable law. Around 30 policies have been updated over the past six months.

Mississippi public schools have the authority to use funds to train employees in the use of firearms. Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, said the policy raises questions about whether teachers can be trained to use firearms for student protection.

“I don’t know if we can find the time in teachers’ schedules to train them to this level, both physically and mentally, to have all of these skills,” Canady said.

Michael Goldberg is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikergoldberg.


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