During its August meeting, the Macon County Board of Education gave the unanimous consensus for school board attorney John Henning Jr. to draft a resolution for a policy change that would ban guns on school campuses.
Under the new law, G.S. 14-269.2, individuals who hold a concealed carry permit, are legally permitted to bring a concealed gun onto school campuses as long as the gun remains in a locked compartment in or attached to a locked vehicle.
The president of Grass Roots North Carolina and executive director of Rights Watch International, F. Paul Valone, sent a letter to Macon County School Board Chairman Jim Breedlove informing the board that if they choose to move forward with a policy change banning guns on school campuses, GRNC would take action against the county.
According to GRNC, a gun ban for Macon County schools would be illegal based on G.S. 14-415.23 statewide uniformity which reads "To insure uniformity, no political subdivisions, boards, or agencies of the State nor any county, city, municipality, municipal corporation, town, township, village, nor any department or agency thereof, may enact ordinances, rules, or regulations concerning legally carrying a concealed handgun."
According to Henning, the law predates the consideration of guns on school campuses. “Of course, before the passage of Session Law 2013-369, that had no application in a school context, and school systems clearly were not consulted at the time it was adopted since concealed weapons were generally illegal on school properties,” said Henning. “I do not know of any case law interpreting the application of this statute to school systems, but I would concede that it is a very broad definition.”
In GRNC's letter to the board, they specifically say that if Macon County plans to move forward, they will take legal action. “Since Macon County Schools are indeed a department of Macon County, and a gun ban would undoubtedly constitute a 'rule,' such policy would be a violation of state law. Indeed, if the school board passes such a ban, Grassroots North Carolina will recruit plaintiffs and file litigation against Macon County and its board of education.”
When asked if Macon County plans to move forward with drafting a resolution regarding banning guns on school campuses after receiving the letter from GRNC, Henning said the matter needed to be discussed further.
“GRNC is openly threatening to recruit plaintiffs and fund litigation against Macon County Schools in the event of any sort of ban,” said Henning. “I have no wish to court litigation, nor would our board members. So, in the present circumstances, I would not advise the adoption of a ban.”
In hopes of avoiding litigation, but continuing with the school system's duty to keep schools safe, Henning plans to advise the board to closely look at the law. “This change in the statute has already given rise to several potentially dangerous misconceptions, and I do believe that the board needs to address them.,” he said. “S.L. 2013-369 is not a general authorization to carry concealed weapons - they must remain in a locked case or compartment within a locked vehicle, and anyone who retrieves or brandishes such a weapon will still have violated G.S. 14-269.2. It is not a direction to school personnel to interfere in emergency situations, during which Macon County Schools would expect personnel to remain with students and maintain their safety. It is not an authorization to carry any other kind of weapon, and it is definitely not an authorization for students to carry weapons. And it does not become effective until October 1, 2013.”
According to Macon County Board of Education Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin, the board will continue to work with Henning on the matter and will have a formal statement at the September Board of Education meeting which is scheduled for Sept. 23 at Highlands School.