Americans cherish their Second Amendment rights, so not many eyebrows may be lifted by a bill in the Oklahoma Legislature that would allow superintendents and principals to carry guns on school property. But at the risk of sounding like Yoda, lift them we should.

According to Rep. Bud Smithson, D-Sallisaw, a retired state trooper and a firearms safety instructor, administrators need to be able to protect themselves “when violence erupts in the schools.” Since Smithson took the trouble to introduce legislation, one might logically assume several school officials who felt threatened had asked him to intervene on their behalf. In fact, Smithson mentions only one advocate: the Belfonte superintendent, whose name – “Lucky” McCrary – is befitting of the rootin’, tootin’ cowboy he apparently sees in the mirror when he shaves.

McCrary says administrators who work at rural schools are worried not just about violence while classes are in session, but about burglars and vandals prowling the grounds at night. At all times, he considers himself the “first line of protection” for his students, staff and property.

That’s all fine and well, hoss – but most administrators would rather not square off against a Guy in the Black Hat, spurs a-jinglin’ and six-shooters a-blazin’, in the hallowed halls of academia. Nor, for the most part, are they qualified to do so. (As one area administrator joked: “A former cop? Hell, most of us used to be coaches! We might kick your butt, but we aren’t gonna shoot you!”)

Under the circumstances, one might also assume Cherokee County school officials would get behind such a law. After all, Cherokee County is bigger than Sequoyah – 751 square miles here, as opposed to 674 there. Cherokee County is more populous, with about 44,106 souls (56.6 people per square mile), while Sequoyah boasts only 40,578 (57.8 people per square mile). Sequoyah County does have one more public school district – 13 there, as opposed to 12 here.

Tahlequah Superintendent Paul Hurst should probably be thrown out of the mix, because he has no particular reason to pack heat. He’d rather rely on trained law enforcement personnel, such as the “school resource officers,” for protection. Besides, city Police Chief Steve Farmer’s cops are just seconds away.

What about Cherokee County’s rural administrators? Some of their schools are quite remote, and locale is one selling point McCrary uses, saying it might take a deputy too long to get to certain campuses. Perhaps surprisingly, though, most Cherokee County administrators do not seem inclined to support the proposal. A few actively oppose it, but not because they’re opposed to guns. Instead, some – like Speedy Chaffin and Briggs and Randy Rountree at Tenkiller – think there are better ways to get the job done.

Chaffin admits he’s been apprehensive when he’s had to return to school at night, but he doesn’t think it would be such a good idea to carry a gun during school hours, for obvious reasons. Rountree also understands the peril of after-hours situations, but he doesn’t want guns at school, period, and he bluntly stated what Chaffin implied: “If it’s not on the property, no one’s going to use it at all.”

Many schools, like Tenkiller, have a security guard on duty when school is in session, and otherwise, Rountree and Chaffin both believe a deputy could be dispatched in short order. Perhaps Cherokee County administrators have more confidence in Sheriff Norman Fisher and his team than McCrary does in Sequoyah County’s badge-bearers. Since Sequoyah County is smaller, those deputies may even have a shorter distance to drive than ours. And it’s doubtful an administrator would get there any sooner than an officer, who has flashing lights to help expedite his journey.

Again, McCrary may be an exception. No doubt his driving abilities were honed by high-speed pursuits during his trooper years, and perhaps he lives near (or inside of) his school. Or, perhaps he is thinking of other officials, yet unnamed, who really do need a means of self-defense.

Every administrator, at one time or another, incurs someone’s wrath. Some make enemies by forcing recalcitrant kids to tow the line. Others engage in behavior that calls their integrity into question, and fear patrons will tire of the slow grind of the wheels of justice, and take matters into their own hands. In the state’s rougher parts, “frontier justice” is not unheard of.

An increasingly unpopular figure like Lost City’s Annette Millard, for instance, may have good reason to want to protect herself. Millard is under investigation by the OSBI for alleged budgetary improprieties, and if the angry phone calls fielded by the Press are any indication of public sentiment, she may, indeed, need eyes in the back of her head.

But most school officials don’t inspire that much venom, and would find a sidearm useless, inconvenient, or even dangerous. And besides, as Rountree pointed out, if legislators want to do something to help school officials, they ought to find more money to help them educate the kids.


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