The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by gun rights organizations challenging school districts’ authority to ban firearms on school property.
Lawsuits against Ann Arbor Public Schools and the Clio Area School District have been ongoing. Michigan Open Carry Inc. sued Clio on behalf of a parent who was denied entry to his child’s school in 2013 and 2014 because he was openly carrying a handgun. In 2015, Michigan Gun Owners Inc. sued Ann Arbor Public Schools on behalf of a parent who openly carried a pistol to a school event, because the district changed its policy to designate all school property as firearms-free zones. Michigan law forbids concealed carry of firearms into schools, but it not does ban open carry.
A three-judge Michigan Court of Appeals panel ruled in favor of the school districts in 2017. The Michigan Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for both cases in 2018, The Detroit News reported in December 2017. By the end of January 2018, a date for the cases had not yet been set.
‘Can’t Trump State Law’
Jim Makowski, an attorney for Michigan Gun Owners Inc., says state law takes precedence over local preferences.
“The local school district can’t trump state law,” Makowski said. “In Michigan, it’s illegal to conceal-carry a firearm onto school property. The only way to legally carry a firearm onto school property is to have a concealed-carry license but to carry it openly. Frankly, we’re hoping the legislature decides to change the law and to allow concealed carry on school property.”
‘A Power Grab’
Makowski says the suits are a response to school districts trying to assert authority they don’t have.
“This is a power grab by the school district,” Makowski said. “The district has crossed the line, hoping to upend the law that the Michigan legislature has [passed]. In the last 25 years, the laws have been really consistent, yet the district has picked a really ridiculous reason to limit access.
“If the courts rule against us, each district in Michigan would be able to determine its own policy in regard to firearms,” Makowski said. “So you could go to one district where you have one set of rules in place, and go to another district with a potentially different set of rules in place. It would be well-known you would find a legally armed gun owner on those schools’ premises [and not on others]. You would be increasing the danger to students, you’re causing confusion to the public, and if the goal is increasing gun safety and a safe learning environment, then this is missing the point.”
‘We Should Trust Parents’
Ben DeGrow, director of education studies for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, says giving parents the freedom to choose where they send their children to school would solve such problems without imposing one-size-fits-all rules.
“Families have different views on all kinds of sensitive issues, including those that affect what kind of safety policies a school may have,” DeGrow said. “We should trust parents with more power to make informed decisions about many kinds of educational options that will help their child learn best and will meet their family’s needs and values.”
Editor’s Note: This article was published in partnership with The Heartland Institute’s School Reform News newspaper. SRN’s managing editor is Teresa Mull and SRN’s senior editor is S.T. Karnick.
Kenneth Artz (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Dallas, Texas.