Thirteen school districts around Arkansas will be allowed to continue to use teachers, administrators and other school staff as armed guards thanks to a vote by the Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies. Members are permitting the practice despite the fact that the state’s Attorney General warned that the law on which the districts are relying only applies to private businesses.
The final vote was a turnaround from a vote held last month which decided that two districts couldn’t keep the gun licenses they obtained which classified them as private security firms. Later it was agreed that the districts will be able to keep their permit for at least the next two years.
Board members said the two-year reprieve would give the Legislature a chance to look at ways schools could employ their own staff as armed guards. The panel said it won’t accept any new applications from school districts.
In an advisory opinion last month, McDaniel said the licensing law was intended for private security companies. State law prohibits guns on campus, but an exception is included for licensed security guards.
“We all agree school safety is important,” Ka Tina Hodge, an assistant attorney general, told the panel. “The issue here is whether or not the school is a private business.”
Ralph Sims, the board chairman, said that with the vote, the board members are leaving the final decision with state legislators. According to the Associated Press, Sims acknowledged that schools don’t actually fall into this exemption and that it was up to the lawmakers to take the next step to make sure they could.
Earlier this year the Clarksville school district gained national attention when it announced that it has trained more than 20 school faculty and staff to carry guns and act as security guards. The move followed the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in order to ease the worries of local parents that the events could repeat themselves in Clarksville.
Andrew DeMillio of the Associated Press writes that the move to put weapons in the hands of school workers in the district comes from student safety concerns in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Preparing for such a scenario has been the preoccupation of many schools and an even greater number of police officers around the country. However, the National Rifle Association has repeatedly stressed in the months since the shooting that the best solution is putting guns in the hands of school employees.