The Pryor Times

February 22, 2013

Committee votes to restore private school local control


— OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation that would give private schools the ability to set policy in regards to firearms received unanimous support by a House committee Thursday.

House Bill 1622, by state Rep. Sally Kern, was approved by a 12-0 vote in the House Public Safety Committee. Kern said private schools would be able to arm teachers to defend the school if they so choose, under her bill.

“The bill allows private schools to set a policy for arming faculty to protect students and themselves if an active shooter were to come on campus. The bill does not mandate private schools do this. It just leaves the decision up to each governing board to make that determination. Private schools are private entities and the state has no business telling them who can and cannot carry a firearm on their property,” said Kern.

Churches are a good example of a private property on which a law-abiding gun owner might be charged with a crime for carrying a weapon on a Monday, during a church-run school’s hours, or have no charge on Sunday, when they are attending a service, Kern said.

Current law punishes gun owners who carry a firearm onto private school property with a felony charge, a fine of up to $5,000 and two years in prison. Under Kern’s bill, the penalty would be a misdemeanor charge, a fine of no more than $250 and zero jail time.

“Although we now have open carry, there are a number of laws still on the books that severely penalize what could easily be a simple mistake by a law-abiding citizen,” said Kern, R-Oklahoma City. “Lawmakers are working to lower the penalties for some of these infractions, so that we are not jailing citizens that mean no harm.”

If approved by the House Calendar Committee, the legislation will be available for a hearing on the House floor.