Many Kalamazoo-area parents are outraged after a father legally brought his handgun to his toddler’s music class.
Under Michigan law, someone who holds a valid concealed pistol license can openly carry a firearm in schools even if the school has designated itself a weapon-free zone. The father in this situation has a CPL.
The class at the center of the controversy, which is held once a week at Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency’s West Campus, is for children and parents to attend together. Following school procedure, police and administrators have escorted the open-carrying father to and from the class and the school has been locked down during his three visits over about the past month.
At a meeting Monday evening, many upset parents voiced their concerns and frustrations about the situation. Margaret Wilson, whose 3-year-old is in the class, said the man and his gun have created fear and crippled learning:
“By A) having the gun in the classroom and B) by the response by bringing in more guns to deal with the gun that’s there,” she said.
Kalamazoo RESA Superintendent Dave Campbell said the lockdown and police escort is a way to balance both sides in a tough situation. But he also admitted that he doesn’t think guns belong in school.
When asked if felt like his hands were tied by the law, he replied, “Absolutely.”
“I feel like I’ve got a significant amount of authority to provide a great educational environment. I don’t have any authority on this one,” he continued.
Many parents referenced the Kalamazoo-area shooting spree of Feb. 20, saying it was a source of heightened fear.
“Having come on the heels of the (spree suspect Jason) Dalton case, I think that especially here when we’re talking about schools, that the concern has to be making sure we’re putting the safety of the students first,” Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said.
He was on hand at Monday’s meeting to explain why the man isn’t breaking any laws. Though he didn’t say outright that the law was a bad one, he did express concern about the limited training required to get a CPL.
“There are people that are concerned on both sides of this issue,” he said. “There are people that think they are better off by being protected themselves by having their own weapon. There’s other people that think introduces weapons into situations creates them to be more dangerous.”
The man who open carried in the classroom, who asked not to be identified, was at the meeting but had no comment. A couple other open carry advocates — though well outnumbered — voiced their support for him.
“Despite a lot of fears and a lot of concerns — I don’t want to say they’re illegitimate — but despite those fears, in the end, they don’t come to fruition,” Tom Lambert of Michigan Open Carry Inc. said.
There are two cases pending in the Michigan Court of Appeals dealing with open carry in schools: one that ruled in favor of a father open carrying and the other in favor of a school that argued it can enforce a gun ban.
Many parents asked for the school to also take legal action. After the meeting, the superintendent said he “has a lot to think about.”