Administrators armed in W. Colo. school district
As lawmakers across the country debate arming teachers and administrators to prevent another deadly school shooting, one Colorado school district has voted to let its superintendent and a high school principal carry concealed semi-automatic pistols on campus – a move some say sidesteps laws meant to keep schools gun-free.
The seven-member school board in southwestern Colorado’s rural Dolores County voted unanimously in February to allow Ty Gray, principal of Dove Creek High School, and Superintendent Bruce Hankins to double as security officers, who under state law are allowed to carry guns on elementary, middle and high school campuses.
Hankins and Gray – both lifelong hunters – will receive an additional $1 per year for the extra responsibility after completing a concealed-carry course and receiving permits from the county sheriff before they can carry a gun on school grounds.
“We won’t live our lives in fear, but we realize the world we live in today and need to do everything in our power to keep kids safe,” Hankins told The Cortez Journal.
“If somebody comes into the building making threats or shooting, I’m not going to hide behind my desk.”
The Feb. 6 school board resolution argued that because of an average police response time of 40 minutes – and a limited budget – “it is necessary to rely upon existing staff to fulfill the function of the needed security personnel.”
Authorities say in the spring of 2009, a 16-year-old student plotted to kill Dove Creek High School’s principal, then ambush the county sheriff, take his weapon and continue shooting.
“They had stolen the guns and it just happened that the day they planned we were not in session. So, it is real to our community,” Hankins said.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed several bills into law last week, including requiring background checks for private and online gun sales and banning ammunition magazines that hold more than 15 rounds.
Figures compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures indicate that most states ban guns on campus, unless they are carried by peace officers, security guards or by employees who have written permission from the schools superintendent.
But since the Sandy Hook shooting, lawmakers in almost two dozen states have introduced legislation that would make it easier for school employees or volunteers to carry guns on campus.
South Dakota’s Republican governor, Dennis Daugaard, signed a bill March 8 allowing districts to permit teachers and other personnel to serve as “sentinels” and carry firearms on campus. The law takes effect July 1.
Legislatures in a handful of other states, including Georgia, New Hampshire and Kansas, are working on measures similar to South Dakota’s.