Editorial: Court right to leave gun decision to school districts
The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Friday that schools can ban guns on their property, upholding policies against open carry that Ann Arbor and Clio districts put in place as safety measures to prevent disruptions. This was a good call for upholding both the law and common sense.
The majority opinion, authored by Justice Bridget McCormack, stated: “The Legislature has the authority to preempt school districts from adopting policies like the ones at issue that regulate firearms on school property; however, not only has the Legislature not done so, it has expressed its intent not to preempt such regulation.”
If the Legislature wanted to prevent school districts from making rules on open carry, it could have done that. But it didn’t.
In the course of their deliberations, the justices had to grapple with the nature of a statute which keeps local units of government from enacting or enforcing firearms ordinances. But they were right to affirm that since school districts were not defined by the law as a local unit of government like a city, village or township, districts decide whether or not gun-toters can walk their campuses.
Though state law prohibits concealed weapons in schools, the statute does not expressly prohibit permit holders from openly carrying.
In an era of school shootings, districts are actively engaged in keeping unauthorized guns out of their schools. It would be irresponsible -- just plain stupid -- to ask them to sort out which open carriers are safe, and which are intent on doing students harm.
In the case of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, someone brought a sidearm into a high school choir concert, which caused the school board to make a rule that bringing any gun into the school should be met with emergency response, including evacuation of students.
This was not an affront to the Second Amendment any more so than banning guns from airplanes, courtrooms and other places where security concerns are paramount.
As an Ann Arbor school official said: “This is an important ruling on behalf of both children and local governance. In our community we believe guns do not belong in schools and our policies are an effort to achieve that. We work hard to provide a safe environment for education and believe this ruling enables us to do that work, especially on behalf of our students.”
Other school districts may feel differently, but it’s hard to imagine that any system would want take on the burden of sorting out which carriers present a threat.
If the Legislature really wants to ensure school visitors can keep their pistol lashed to their hips, lawmakers can have that debate. We would advise against that. In the meantime, school districts get to decide the best way to protect their students and monitor their school environment.