Armed students in schools?
Law allows anyone with license to carry
MILFORD – The School Board is wrestling with the issue of guns in schools, and is looking for ways to restrict firearms without violating a law that allows them.
Under state law, anyone who has a concealed-carry gun license, including students, can bring a firearm into a school.
The issue came up in Milford during a review of board policies last month, and one person in the audience said he’s appalled.
"This is total insanity, and if the School Board doesn’t object, they’re not doing their job," said Harry Standel, of Osgood Road. "This is unbelievable."
Board Chairman Paul Dargie said he agreed, "but it’s the law."
One board member was also aghast.
"So we are saying that an 18-year-old can sit in a classroom with a firearm on their belt or concealed in their backpack," Ron Carvell said. "Is that what the law is saying?"
There are laws on the books regarding causing public alarm, he said.
"If you bring a firearm into a school with all the things that are going on, you’re causing a public panic, a public alarm" among staff and children, Carvell said.
"I wonder what’s going on up in Concord when something like this gets put in there, and we as a school board are stuck with putting that within our school system. We can have a student with a concealed weapon permit carrying an M-4 down our hallways openly, and there is nothing our school system can do about it. Is that what we’re saying?"
Dargie said he’d like to make the policy as restrictive as possible, "but we have to follow the law."
Board member Robert Willette suggested a requirement that anyone with a weapon report to school authorities, and Len Mannino said he would like a police officer at board meetings, since board members aren’t allowed to bring guns to meetings.
The board will ask the district’s attorney to research the issue.
Standel urged school officials not to be passive, saying their primary responsibility is to keep students safe.
"You could act as an advocate," he said. "You may be successful or may not be successful, but if there’s a consensus that this is not just a bad idea, an insane idea" the board should push back.
"If this become a reality," he said, "the schools should send a notice to each parent. … I think you’d fill this auditorium."
Dargie said administrators will ask the town attorney if there are loopholes that would allow the district to restrict firearms without violating the law.
The topic came up because the state Attorney General’s Office had issued a statement about guns at the schools used as polling places. New Hampshire election laws, it said, don’t prohibit a voter from carrying a firearm into a polling place located at a school.
Milford High School Principal Brad Craven has said that he wants to wait to comment until the board has established a policy.
Even though the federal law is called the Guns Free School Zones Act, it law has several exceptions, and one of them allows a licensed gun owner to bring a gun to a school if law enforcement authorities verify the person is qualified to have the license.
The federal law could become less restrictive under Donald Trump’s administration and a Republican Congress; Trump has promised to eliminate gun-free school zones.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.