Our Editorial: Schools no place for open carry

The Detroit News

Open carry advocates who are insisting on exercising their rights to carry pistols and rifles into schools, unconcealed, should put themselves in the place of principals who have the heavy responsibility of keeping a few hundred children safe from harm.

How would they respond if an adult walked through their doors, or even onto school grounds, with a visible gun? After Columbine and Sandy Hook and other places around the country where children have been slaughtered in mass shootings, would they simply shrug and assume the person is a harmless open carry advocate exercising his or her constitutional right?

Or would they mobilize, lock down the school, call the police and take whatever steps are necessary to protect the kids entrusted to their care? If it were their child, how would they want the school to respond?

And what about the police? When they arrive at the school, how do they ascertain whether the gun toter is a threat? Are they supposed to wait until a shot is fired? A misread of the situation can lead to an unnecessary tragedy.

These questions are becoming increasingly relevant in Michigan as open carry zealots get more determined to push their rights. Several school districts have raised concerns about guns being displayed in plain sight by school visitors, and the uncertainty and unease they create.

Common sense seems to have gone out the window. The open carry lobby is intent on provoking a confrontation — gunning for a fight, if you will. That’s a bad practice when firearms are involved.

Last week, a Genesee County judge ruled a local school district could not prevent a father from showing up to school with his gun on full display. The judge said state law gives him that right.

But as an attorney for another school district noted, state law also requires school officials to establish policies to ensure the “safety and protection of students.”

The two laws are in conflict. So the Legislature should provide clarity.

This newspaper has been consistent in its support of the Second Amendment, recognizing that many gun control proposals are little more than feel good measures that would not impact gun violence.

But all rights are subject to reasonable restrictions.

It is reasonable to restrict open carry rights in venues such as schools, theaters or other crowded public spaces where they are likely to create panic and lead to potentially dangerous confusion about the intent of the carrier.

Michigan has very liberal concealed carry laws. There is a low bar for obtaining a concealed pistol license. Those who feel the need to be constantly armed should take the minimal training required and apply for a CPL.

State lawmakers should heed the request of numerous school districts worried about the safety of their students and amend the law to make school buildings and grounds off-limit for the open carry of firearms.