Guns called a school board issue; Residents approach selectmen on policy

MILFORD – The thorny question of guns in schools came to the selectmen last week, and they were relatively mute on the issue.

At their Dec. 27 meeting, residents Harry Standal and Jennifer Siegrist asked selectmen to do something to make sure there are no guns in schools.

The issue came up after the Milford School Board became aware during the general elections that state law allows anyone with a concealed carry permit to bring a firearm into a school. The board rewrote its guns-in-schools policy, which says students could not bring any firearms into schools, but that members of the public can.

After board members called it a School Board issue, residents weren’t satisfied.

“We all know guns are for hunting and personal protection, and neither has any place in schools. Schools are the only safe bastion,” said Siegrist, who noted that the state Legislature is proposing again to do away with the requirement for a concealed carry permit.

The repeal came up for votes in 2015 and 2016 and was approved in party-line votes. But lawmakers didn’t have enough votes to withstand a veto from Gov. Maggie Hassan. Gov.-elect Chris Sununu supports repeal.

“Police will no longer know who holds a gun in a concealed fashion,” Siegrist said.

She then addressed Selectman Gary Daniels, a Republican and District 11 state senator: “Mr. Daniels, do everything you can to get it written into law … that schools are not places for guns.”

On Monday, Daniels told The Cabinet he hasn’t been able to research the state law, which he thinks goes back to the early 1990s.

“I want to claim that nobody has had a problem with it,” he said. “The only change is that people know about it.”

At the meeting, Standal said selectmen are avoiding their responsibility.

“We are talking about children’s lives,” he said. “You folks were chosen by people to represent them. … I think it’s important that each one of you” discuss your position so residents understand where they stand.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office released a statement before the election in November, saying the state has no authority to enforce the federal Gun Free School Zones Act:

“Under the federal Gun Free School Zones Act as reenacted on September 30, 1996, guns are not allowed within 1,000 feet of public, parochial or private schools unless certain circumstances apply. If the individual possessing the firearm is licensed by the State to possess the firearm and law enforcement authorities have verified that the person is qualified to receive the license, then that individual can carry a firearm onto school property.”

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.