Legislation that would allow superintendents and principals in Oklahoma to carry guns on school property isn’t receiving much support from local education officials.

The measure, by Rep. Glen Bud Smithson, would allow top school officials to carry firearms if they have gun permits and approval of their school boards.

“Our school administrators, especially in rural areas, need to be able to protect their students when violence erupts in the schools,” said Smithson, D-Sallisaw, a retired state trooper and firearms safety instructor.

But several school officials would rather have trained officers available who know how to handle a situation when violence erupts.

“I find little value in such legislation,” said Tahlequah Superintendent Paul Hurst. “It’s one thing to be a trained law enforcement officer on campus, but this is another thing, with all due respect.”

State Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, doesn’t foresee the bill making it out of committee and onto the floor of either house for debate.

“I’ve talked to three or four people about it, and they don’t support it,” said Wilson. “I would hope they would be trained to carry a gun, if it happens, to go through CLEET training or something like that.”

Speedy Chaffin, Briggs School superintendent, can understand why some rural superintendents might want to be able to tote guns with them at night.

“I’ve come back here at night, at 2 or 3 in the morning, and sometimes I wished I had a gun, but I’ve never taken one,” said Chaffin. “When the alarm goes off at night, you have to go through each of the rooms by yourself, and it can be pretty scary sometimes.”

Chaffin doesn’t think it’s a good idea during school hours, though.

“Nobody I’ve talked to really thinks it’s going to pass,” said Chaffin. “If we have a problem, the sheriff’s office can get here in about 10 or 15 minutes.”

A news release from Smithson quoted Superintendent Lucky McCrary of Belfonte School District as saying he is just as concerned about burglary and vandalism after school hours as he is about violence while school is in session.

“When an incident takes place in my school, whether during school hours or in the middle of the night, I am the first line of protection for my students, staff and property,” McCrary reportedly said.

McCrary’s school is 17 miles away from Muldrow, the nearest municipality, and it could take an officer more than half an hour to get to the school.

“I need the authority to protect those I have been entrusted to protect, if necessary,” McCrary said.

Tenkiller School Superintendent Randy Rountree doesn’t like the idea of having guns on campus at all.

“If it’s not on the property, no one’s going to use it at all,” said Rountree. “I can understand when you have to come down to the school late at night – many times I’ve had to do that – but we have a security guard to monitor the school, and we can get the sheriff out here pretty quickly. I don’t think my having a gun is going to do anything.”

Tony Boyle, a member of the Tahlequah I-35 Board of Education, said the issue can be complicated, and if it does pass, strict controls should be placed on the who can carry a gun.

“In Tahlequah, we have the certified police officers on campus, which would preclude any need for the principal to be armed,” said Boyle. “In the outlying schools, it might be a good idea, but they should put strict certification and strict rules on it.”

Boyle said if the legislation passes, the final decision should be left up to individual school boards as to whether a principal or superintendent could carry a gun, as the boards would understand the school’s needs better than individuals outside the area.

“They’re close enough to the problem to understand the risks,” said Boyle. “I am a firm believer in our school resource officers. I thinks that’s one of the better things we have done.”

Instead of debating whether school officials can carry guns on campus, Rountree said there are more important things for legislators to talk about.

“I would rather have them debating getting us more money to educate the kids,” said Rountree.

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