The Salem-Keizer School Board voted Tuesday to ban concealed carry weapons on school grounds.
Although students and staff were already barred from having weapons at school, prior to the school board’s action people such as parents, volunteers and other visitors could conceal carry on school grounds, legally with the appropriate license.
“Oregon is currently the only state in the Northwest that allows the general public to carry guns in K-12 schools,” Salem-Keizer School Board Chair Ashley Carson Cottingham said at the meeting Tuesday.
Earlier this summer, Oregon’s largest school district — Portland Public Schools — passed a similar ban. Other Portland-area districts such as Tigard-Tualatin and Lake Oswego have enacted similar bans, as have more rural districts like Pendleton, Klamath Falls and Myrtle Point.
The bans follow the passage of Senate Bill 554 by the Oregon Legislature earlier this year which gave schools the ability to prohibit concealed carry weapons on school property.
“Passing this policy would increase that sense of safety, and I see that as our duty and responsibility as a board governing the school district,” said Karina Guzmán Ortiz, vice chair of the school board.
Cottingham and Guzmán Ortiz both voted in favor of the ban. It passed by a narrow 4-3 margin.
Other school board members, parents and students expressed a variety of views on the ban at Tuesday’s meeting.
Some people who spoke at the meeting had concerns that a ban on concealed carry weapons could lead to profiling, as it’s doubtful the district could screen every school visitor for weapons.
“It’s not clear to me what we are hoping to achieve by having this policy,” Board member Satya Chandragiri said. “If somebody carries a concealed handgun license, how will one know if they are carrying? It’s only going to lead to unnecessary profiling.”
Chandragiri was one of the board members who voted against the ban.
Board member Marty Heyen also voted no, also citing worries about profiling. She also said she thought the ban would not make schools any safer.
“Think about how different Uvalde might have been while those police officers were outside, if there had been one person in that school, one person with a [concealed handgun license] who could legally carry in that school,” Heyen said, referring to the school shooting in Texas earlier this year. She received some applause from audience members.
School board vice chair Guzmán Ortiz said she hopes people who have concealed carry permits will abide by and respect the ban.
The conceal carry ban doesn’t change how law enforcement officers will still respond to schools in an emergency.
As part of the board’s passage of the ban, the district’s superintendent will now develop and enact administrative policy to lay out how it will work in practice.