Proposed bill could legalize concealed carry on school campuses

A proposed bill in the Virginia House of Delegates could allow school boards and private schools to designate volunteers to carry a concealed firearm on Virginia elementary and secondary school grounds.

House Bill 76, introduced by Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Manassas) and co-sponsored by Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg), is currently in the House Education Subcommittee, which has yet to vote on whether to bring the bill to the legislature.

The bill would allow the school board to appoint one or more persons, including any employee of the respective school or any member of the community, to conceal carry a firearm. Marshall said that having more concealed guns in schools creates a safer environment because the idea of staff members having concealed carry rights will deter would be mass shooters.

“If someone considering coming into a school knows that it is possible that there are multiple people trained and ready to stop them they are less likely to consider attacking that school,” Marshall said.

Marshall called concealed carry users are safe and reliable. The delegate said there are virtually no cases of people with concealed carry weapons permits being involved in unjustified shootings.

A study by the Violence Policy Center in 2015 said that there were 722 fatalities nationwide in non-defensive shootings by concealed carry permit holders since 2007 — The VPC study indicated that this number is likely representative of only a fraction of the actual total.

According to a study released by the Crime Prevention Research Center in July 2015, the number of concealed handgun permits in the United States soared since 2007 from 4.6 million to over 12.8 million and in the same time the national murder rate fell from 5.6 killings per 100,000 people to just 4.2, about a 25 percent drop.

Several studies, including a 2004 study by the National Research Council of the National Academies, could not find any evidence that concealed carry laws act as a deterrent to crime. A 2014 study by Stanford University claimed that concealed carry laws were actually linked to an increase in violent crime rates.

VCU Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness professor, Dr. Will Pelfrey, said he worked in Virginia state law enforcement for two years. He said that a law allowing a concealed firearm carrier on school grounds could potentially do more harm than good.

“Do we really want a shop teacher or a bus driver or a custodian or an assistant principal running to every argument or fight in a school because that person is the keeper of the gun?” Pelfrey said.

Pelfrey said the legislation raises a host of complex issues such as a predicament where law enforcement responding to an active shooter shoots the armed volunteer erroneously and the possibility that non situations

“Psychological research suggests that, when a weapon is present, people tend to be more aggressive,” Pelfrey said. “The mere presence of a firearm could escalate difficult scenarios into violent scenarios.”

The bill’s cole sponsor, Del. Cole, thinks the measures in the bill which require training for the armed volunteers will ultimately keep students and school faculty safe.

“Any person designated to carry a concealed handgun must be certified and trained by the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety or the National Rifle Association in the storage, use and handling of a concealed handgun,” Cole said.

Pelfrey said a more sensible solution to the concern of violence on school grounds would be to have a School Resource Officer (SRO) on school grounds.

Currently, only active law enforcement and school resource officers are permitted to carry firearms on school grounds. According to the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice, in 2015 63% of schools have a specific security personnel, and 31% of those schools had a SRO.

Marshall argued that school resource officers are too economically costly and do not provide adequate protection for students.

Marshall also said he hopes that many school boards choose to have staff conceal carry, he claimed that there is broad support for his plan among educators.

“My gut reaction is that I don’t want guns on campus,” said Thomas Hudgins, headmaster at Carlisle Private School in Martinsville. “But I think we are all willing to do anything to try to discourage crazies from showing up and opening fire.”

Director of Administrative Services of Fredericksburg City Schools in Cole’s district, Dr. John Gordon, said the school board would not allow staff to conceal carry.

“Fredericksburg City Public Schools is not comfortable with anyone carrying a concealed weapon on school property outside of a School Resource Officer or other law enforcement official,” Gordon said.

Staff Writer, Andrew Crider

Andrew Crider, photo by Brooke MarshAndrew is a junior economics major who has written for student newspapers since he was in high school. Andrew is interested in political history, aviation, photography and running. He has a tendency to refer to his peers, coworkers and bosses as “ma’am” or “sir,” but is getting better about referring to his friends at the CT by their first names instead. // Facebook

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