Bill would close exemption for concealed guns on campus

Bill would close exemption for concealed guns on campus

(Calif.) Gun owners licensed to carry a concealed firearm would be prohibited from bringing it onto a K-12 or college campus under a bill poised for approval by the California Legislature.

Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, authored the legislation, which removes from current law an exemption to the gun ban on school grounds for those who hold what is known as a “concealed carry” weapons permit.

“Earlier this year I was surprised to learn that California law allowed concealed firearms on any campus, especially on an elementary school campus,” Wolk said in a statement following Senate approval of SB 707. “Today, we took an important step toward closing this loophole in our Gun Free Schools Act and passed a common sense bill to help our school officials control firearms on their campuses.”

A buildup in the number of school shootings – capped by the 2012 massacre of 26 children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. – has prompted calls in many states for amended gun laws in order to allow teachers and other school staff to be able to arm and protect themselves and their students in case of an attack.

A recent Colorado effort – launched by state Rep. Patrick Neville, a sophomore at Columbine High School during the infamous 1999 shooting – to allow concealed carry permit holders to bring weapons onto school campuses failed to pass the Democratically-controlled Legislature. A similar effort in Wyoming suffered the same fate earlier this year.  

According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, almost all states and D.C. prohibit guns in K-12 schools, but only 39 states and D.C. apply this prohibition to people who have been granted a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Wolk’s SB 707, which is pending before a policy committee in the Assembly after passing out of the Senate last month, would add California to that list.

The legislation does not change the clause in existing law giving school authorities the right to authorize persons with a concealed carry permit to bring a weapon onto school grounds – neither does it repeal exemptions for honorably retired peace officers or active duty police and military officers “engaged in the performance of” their duties.

“SB 707 places control over campus safety issues where it ought to be: with campus governing entities and their POST-certified police agencies, rather than giving an unqualified right for persons with concealed weapons permits to have unfettered campus access,” wrote Randy Burba, president of the California College and University Police Chiefs Association, which sponsored the legislation.

The bill specifies that non-exempt persons holding a valid license to carry a concealed firearm may do so only in an area that is within 1,000 feet of, but not on the grounds of, a public or private school providing instruction in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12.

The proposal also requires that ammunition carried onto school grounds must be stored in a locked container within the trunk of a vehicle.

“Closing the CCW (concealed carry weapon) school grounds exemption in California is consistent with efforts to maintain school and college campuses as safe, gun free, environments,” a legislative analysis on SB 707 states, “and will ensure that students and parents who expect a campus to be safe and 'gun free' can be confident that their expectation is being met and that school officials are fully in charge of who is allowed to bring a firearm on their campus."

According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, three other states allow schools themselves to ban such permit holders from bringing guns onto campuses. However, most states allow teachers with concealed carry permits to bring firearms if they are granted permission from their school board or another authority.

Twenty states generally prohibit firearms on college and university campuses, but 23 states specify that CCW permit holders may not carry concealed firearms on campus, the Law Center states on its website. Most of the remaining states leave the question up to the college or university, but nine states prohibit colleges and universities from banning guns in certain areas of campus.

SB 707 is currently in the Assembly’s Committee on Appropriations. If it passes from there, it heads to the Assembly floor. A win there would put it on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk to be signed into law. more