SKPS board bans concealed carry

In a 4-3 decision on Tuesday, Aug. 9, the Salem-Keizer School Board voted to ban the concealed carry of firearms on campuses. 

With the approval of the resolution, it now goes to Superintendent Christy Perry to form and enforce a policy keeping those with concealed handgun licenses (CHL) from bringing firearms on campus.

Board members that voted in favor of the ban were Osvaldo Avila, Ashley Carson Cottingham, Karina Guzman Ortiz and Maria Hinojos Pressey. Those that opposed were Satya Chandragiri, Danielle Bethel and Marty Heyen.

Earlier in the evening, Heyen proposed an amendment to the resolution that would exempt those with training from the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. The amendment did not pass, with voting going down the same lines as the resolution itself. 

Both Heyen and Chandragiri were outspoken against the ban, but for different reasons. 

Heyen leaned towards the safety of students.

“The only people affected by this are parents and regular law abiding citizens — and potentially our children,” Heyen said during discussion. 

She brought up the July incident in an Indianapolis mall where a bystander with a CHL shot and killed an active shooter who had shot five people. She questioned how the policy would even be enforced, and urged that if it can’t be enforced, they have no right to make such a policy.

Chandragiri questioned how the policy would even help with safety. Instead, he said he felt it would lead to systematic profiling, and could be used to alienate and exclude some families. 

According to Chandragiri, the board has not made an authentic effort to seek input from law enforcement, veterans and other communities over the summer break or to get to the root cause of the problem. Instead, they have focused on what he refers to as a “feel good policy.” 

Board members in favor of the resolution also spoke out for it. 

Issues of the safety of the CHL holder were brought up. Avila told a story about a conversation he had with a former board member from the Le Grande, Ore. area. When looking into similar policies, the board member was told by the local sheriff that in the event of an active shooter, they won’t hesitate to take out anyone with a firearm, as they won’t have the time to assess who is a threat and who is trying to help the situation.

Student Advisors Raylin Brennan and Isaac McDonald also voiced their concerns with concealed weapons on campus. Brennan talked about how clothing is often the concealing factor in concealed carry, but clothing can move and shift throughout the day, possibly revealing the firearm. McDonald said that he felt that unknowing students could be scared when seeing a gun, but not knowing who holds a CHL.

It wasn’t just the board that was split on the subject. Community members spoke during the public comments section, both in favor and opposed to the resolution.

Keizer resident and father with three students in the SKPS system Benjamin Walden argued against the proposed policy, citing the training that goes into acquiring a CHL. 

“The CHL holders are some of the most responsible, law-abiding citizens,” Walden said. “Don’t prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting our students.”

Others echoed Walden’s sentiments on the training and skill required with a CHL, as well as calling the proposal an infringement on rights and citing issues with police response times.

Memphis Huckle, a sophomore at McKay talked about the three-hour lockdown he and his classmates faced last year, and that the removal of school resource officers and long response times from the police added to his concerns for his safety. 

Just as many arguments against the ban stemmed from student safety, so did the arguments for it. Many of which came from members of the minority communities.

“It scares me to know that a known white supremacist could sit in this meeting and potentially shoot one of my kids,” said Jessica Perez, a mother of three in the SKPS district. “It scares me to know that we have people on this school board that are already targeting black and brown kids in this district yet they are also the same ones that want guns to be present.”