School officials ponder gun-ban warnings
by Laura Gaddy
Aug 05, 2013 | 4284 views |  0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mike Newell  holds one the "No weapons allowed on property" signs purchased for the Jacksonville City Schools.  Photo by Bill Wilson.
Mike Newell holds one the "No weapons allowed on property" signs purchased for the Jacksonville City Schools. Photo by Bill Wilson.
A state law that went into effect this month is prompting local school officials to ask whether they should take extra steps to keep guns away from their campuses this fall.

The law, passed by the Legislature this spring, among other things makes it expressly legal to carry firearms openly in many kinds of public places and private business that have not posted notices prohibiting them.

A federal law passed in the 1990s prohibits the carrying of firearms on school property, and schools have long had policies that prohibit weapons, but school officials are still trying to decide how to respond to Alabama’s new law.

“What does this law do? That’s what we need answered,” said Mike Fincher, director of safety and security for Calhoun County Schools. “We just want to make sure we do the right thing.”

The law does prohibit the carrying of guns at school-sponsored events, but makes an exception for people with permits to carry concealed weapons.

School officials in Jacksonville, Anniston and Oxford already have decided to post signs that expressly prohibit people from carrying guns onto school property. Jacksonville City Schools received its first sign from a print shop on Monday. Anniston schools plan to post signs at every school entrance before school starts. Oxford’s schools began posting temporary signs Monday.

Piedmont City Schools and Calhoun County Schools are seeking legal advice before posting signs about guns.

“This is something new and because it’s something new we want to be perfectly clear in the path that we’re going to take to ensure we’re doing the right thing for everybody,” Fincher said of the county school system.

Officials in other local school systems are waiting for advice from state organizations, including the Alabama Department of Education and School Superintendents of Alabama, to decide how to proceed. Anniston schools Superintendent Joan Frazier said she is waiting on advice to determine if her system needs to amend existing policy in response to the law.

“Several superintendents have asked about what this is going to mean,” Frazier said.

School officials in Jacksonville, Oxford and Anniston relied on advice from police to decide to hang signs. That advice was consistent with a recommendation Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh gave local law enforcement agencies at a recent conference.

“The easiest answer is to put a sign up,” McVeigh said. “I’m trying to give simple, real-world answers to that question so it’s not complicated.”

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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