CLIO, Mich. — A Genesee County school district may appeal a judge’s ruling that says a father can carry his pistol openly inside his daughter’s elementary school. And the district superintendent said the Legislature needs to take action to remove ambiguity in the law that allows some to carry guns openly in school.
“The Legislature needs to step up and get the focus on education, and not on some guy who wants to carry a gun in a school,” Fletcher Spears, the superintendent for the Clio Area School District, told the Free Press today.
He said the district’s board of education is meeting tonight, and that the subject of the ruling will likely come up. The Clio case is one of several in Michigan filed against school districts that assert their right to establish gun-free zones — including one in Ann Arbor.
Circuit Judge Archie Hayman on Monday ruled in favor of Kenneth Herman and the gun-rights advocacy group Michigan Open Carry. Herman filed a lawsuit in March against the Clio district, arguing he was denied access to Edgerton Elementary multiple times while trying to pick up his daughter because he was carrying his pistol openly.
State law allows people with concealed-pistol licenses to carry their firearms openly in schools. But Tim Mullins, the Troy attorney for the Clio district, said state law also allows school districts to establish policies regarding the “safety and protection of students.”
“The ruling today does not come as a surprise, the law is the law,” Herman told the Flint Journal after Hayman’s decision. He said he hopes that the district will now “stop burning through tax dollars fighting the law and common sense.”
“Mr. Herman was licensed to do what he did under state law. But the school district said, ‘No, we’re going to come up with a policy, a regulation that is more restrictive than state law.’ That, they of course can’t do,” said Dean G. Greenblatt, the attorney for Herman and Michigan Open Carry, which was also part of the lawsuit.
Any change to the rights of people to carry firearms in the state “has to be decided at the state level,” Greenblatt said. “It’s not for unelected library boards or school district boards to make those types of decisions. They don’t have the authority to do it.”
Spears said he understands the judge’s ruling. But while he’s a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and a holder of a concealed-pistol license, he has strong feelings about the presence of guns in schools. He does support, however, legislation that Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed that would allow concealed weapons in schools.
“Open carry does not have a place in the schools,” Spears said.
Mullins said he expects the district to appeal. He said school administrators are forced to act when someone attempts to enter their buildings with an open weapon.
“If I’m a principal and I’m sitting in my office and I see someone walking up to my building with a gun, what am I supposed to do?” Mullins asked. “What they do is declare a lockdown, they call the police. Kids are afraid. Teachers are afraid. Education stops. And then the police come.”
Mullins said most districts in the state, and in the nation, have policies banning guns in schools. He has already received a handful of calls this morning from city attorneys wondering what their police departments should do when someone walks into a school carrying a gun openly.
Mullins said the law is clear in other areas, saying you can’t take a gun into a courthouse, an airport or a probation office.
“My strong suggestion would be that the Legislature address this,” Mullins said.
The district sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, citing its “fundamental misunderstanding” of Michigan law.
Hayman sided with Herman and his advocates, saying the ability to create local weapons policies is beyond the district’s authority.