2016-07-01 / Schools
District closes gun policy loophole
On the surface it seems a like a no-brainer. But until very recently, anyone licensed to carry a concealed weapon in California could legally bring a loaded gun into a public school without informing teachers or administrators.
Now, school board members in the Simi Valley Unified School District have taken action in response to a new state law that further restricts the carrying of a concealed weapon at school, licensed or not.
Approved last year, Senate Bill 707 amended the California Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995, which made it a felony for anyone other than a law enforcement officer to carry a gun at a public school or within 1,000 feet of a school.
Although it aimed to make kids safer, the act included a special exemption for anyone with a valid license to carry a concealed weapon, also known as a Carry Conceal Weapon, or CCW, license. It also exempted any retired law enforcement officer with a valid CCW license.
Obtaining a license to carry a concealed weapon isn’t easy. Gun owners must apply for one through their local sheriff’s department or police station and undergo a U.S. Department of Justice background check.
As part of the 90-day process, the applicant must prove a need to carry a concealed weapon. For example, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s policy says that no concealed weapon license should be granted “merely for the personal convenience of the applicant.”
But even with those safeguards in place, the gun-free act’s language left room for unintended consequences, according to the California School Boards Association.
“Persons with CCW permits might have possessed firearms on campus without the knowledge of school officials, and the public was largely unaware of this exception,” the association said on its website.
Introduced by state Assemblywoman Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and approved last year, SB 707 closed the CCW license loophole.
The new state law, which took effect in October, makes it a felony for a person with a concealed weapons license to take a firearm onto a public school campus “without written authorization from the district superintendent.”
But the California School Boards Association, which issued a policy guideline on the new law in March, contends that the written authorization requirement “puts school officials in the position of having to determine whether or not to grant such permission.”
As a result, the association provided local school boards with the additional option of simply barring anyone with a concealed weapons license from taking a gun onto school grounds, with or without the superintendent’s permission.
At their June 14 meeting, SVUSD school board members voted unanimously in favor of the safer of the two policy options.