Guns in church but not school

2013-03-28T14:54:00Z 2013-03-28T16:55:57Z Guns in church but not schoolBy NICK SMITH | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK, N.D. - North Dakotans with concealed weapon permits will be able to carry concealed firearms in churches and gambling sites if bills passed by the state Senate are signed by the governor.

A bill to allow concealed carry in schools failed.

The North Dakota Senate passed three of six pieces of gun legislation that came to the floor Thursday. A bill that would allow concealed carry in churches if given permission by church leadership was passed. Also headed to Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s desk are bills that would allow concealed carry at gambling sites, excluding bingo halls, and a bill outlining jurisdiction for applying for restoration of gun rights.

A bill that would have kept state law enforcement officers from assisting federal agencies in the enforcement of any federal gun legislation enacted after Jan 1, 2013, failed. Bills allowing concealed firearms in schools and public gatherings also died.

HB1283

Sen. Stan Lyson, R-Williston, explained House Bill 1283 to the Senate. HB1283 would allow those with a concealed weapon permit to carry a firearm in a place of worship if given permission by the primary religious leader.

Lyson questioned the need for HB1283.

“I would ask you, why would we want to have a gun in church?” Lyson said. “I have no idea.”

Lyson said a majority of mass shootings have been found to have been planned in advance. He said with such planning it’s unlikely someone with a concealed carry weapon is going to be able to stop the person.

“If someone stands up and starts to shoot, what are you going to do?” Lyson asked.

Lyson said the person with a concealed weapon might stand up and start shooting, possibly hitting an innocent person in front of himself or herself. He questioned the bills the Legislature has been working with.

“These things are just completely (getting) out of hand,” Lyson said.

Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, said HB1283 was unnecessary but she would be voting in favor of it.

Triplett said separation of church and state should be kept intact as much as possible, but added that church attendance is voluntary, unlike mandatory for public schools. She said that was an important difference between the two and those who don’t approve can always find another church.

“People can vote with their feet,” Triplett said.

HB1283 passed by a 28-17 vote. Bill sponsors are Reps. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, Joe Heilman, R-Fargo, Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, Diane Larson, R-Bismarck, Dan Ruby, R-Minot, and Blair Thoreson, R-Fargo, and Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck.

HB1215

Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, outlined House Bill 1215 to the chamber and urged his colleagues to vote no.

HB1215 would allow people with concealed weapon permits to carry firearms on school grounds if a school policy allows it. An amendment to the bill was passed Wednesday removing a provision that would allow a school board to adopt concealed carry policies in closed session.

Hogue said in committee discussion, multiple education organizations and the Department of Public Instruction spoke in opposition.

“They don’t want the administrative work that goes with it,” Hogue said.

The claim that shooters target gun-free zones didn’t hold water, Hogue said. He referred to the Oregon shopping mall shooting in December 2012 and the Fort Hood shooting in 2009 as examples.

“It wasn’t a gun-free zone,” Hogue said.

In the case of the Oregon mall shooting, a former security guard with a concealed carry permit was nearby when the shooting occurred but didn’t open fire. Prior to the Fort Hood shooting, only military police at the base were allowed to be armed while on active duty.

Sen. Richard Marcellais, D-Belcourt, questioned the impact the bill could have on school districts. He noted that he is a member of his local school board.

“Am I liable for anything at that school if this passes?” Marcellais said.

Hogue replied that the school likely could be held liable. He gave the example of a teacher having a concealed firearm left unsecured and a student took it and opened fire.

Sen. Nicole Poolman, R-Bismarck, said she understood the argument posed that in rural districts it would take time for law enforcement to arrive. She noted that at Century High School, where she teaches, the doors are locked at all times. Poolman said if someone in a classroom had a gun and opened fire, she and others would be at risk.

“We need to maintain the premise that more guns will not solve the problem,” Poolman said.

Sitte said school staff would have gone through training before being allowed to carry.

“We’re not just letting anyone carry guns in school,” Sitte said.

HB1215 failed by an 18-27 vote.

Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

Copyright 2015 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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