2018-09-06 / News

State bans guns in schools

It took Gov. Gina Raimondo less than a week to fire back after President Donald Trump’s education secretary said she wanted to use federal money to arm schools with guns.

“It isn’t hard,” Raimondo said. “Guns don’t belong in schools.”

Through a binding directive from Raimondo’s education commissioner, all firearms are banned from public school buildings and grounds. Before this measure, which exempts guns carried by “visibly identified active law enforcement officers,” there was no statewide law prohibiting Rhode Islanders from carrying concealed weapons into schools. By contrast, courthouses and state colleges prohibit the possession of firearms on their premises.

“The intent is to ensure that all students in Rhode Island attend safe and secure schools,” said Ken Wagner, state education commissioner.

According to Wagner, school districts across Rhode Island had voiced concern about conflicting messages among the three levels of government.

“It’s our job to protect kids and their teachers,” he said. “Inconsistencies among laws, regulations, local policies and practices create confusion, producing the exact kind of unsafe environment the law is intended to prevent.”

This measure will remain in effect until the underlying laws are reconciled, according to Wagner.

“Our students cannot wait a minute longer for the General Assembly to take action,” Raimondo said.

While Jamestown is covered under this directive, there already were policies on the books that banned weapons from Melrose and Lawn schools. Following the 2015- 16 academic year, the school board passed a resolution that banned guns from schools, excluding law enforcement officers. It specifically targeted holders of concealed-carry permits. Two years later, the town followed suit by adopting a similar resolution.

“This is one of these resolutions that is almost impossible to argue against,” Councilman Gene Mihaly said. “Safety in schools is paramount. There is no reason for people to have weapons in school.”

Phil Auger, North Kingstown superintendent, also supports the measure by Wagner.

“I have no greater priority than the safety of our students,” he said. “It is clear to me that in the best interest of safety, the only guns we should allow in our schools are those in the possession of law enforcement officials.”

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