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Ann Arbor school board bans guns on school grounds

Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio

The Ann Arbor school board has unanimously voted to ban guns on school grounds, less than two months after a man wore a gun to a school choir concert.

Dozens of parents turned out to recent board meetings asking the board members to pass the ban.

But it required lengthy discussion with the board’s legal advisors, because technically, an exception in Michigan law makes it legal for someone with a concealed pistol license to open carry in schools.

Board President Deb Mexicotte reminded the board of the three legal principles that would, they believe, allow their ban to stand up in court:

1)    The district’s legal obligation to ensure student safety.

2)    The “wide latitude” given to schools by the courts, “as has been laid forward over many years and legal opinions to maintain a disruption-free learning environment,” says Mexicotte.

3)    And finally, Mexicotte cites recommendations from the state of Michigan as to what constitutes an emergency on a campus – guidelines that specifically cite the presence of a weapon in schools.

“These three pieces…underpin our understanding of what we need to do for our students and our community,” Mexicotte told the board.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Open Carry organization is suing the Clio school district over their similar ban on guns on school grounds.

“History has shown that schools aren’t necessarily safe places just because they’re gun-free zones,” says Phillip Hofmeister, the president of Michigan Open Carry.

“I think you can look at Columbine, you can look at Sandy Hook. Unfortunately bad things happen all over the place including schools. So people need to be able to protect themselves, whether they’re picking up their kid or they’re attending one of their kid’s sporting events.”

But Hofmeister says they have no plans to sue Ann Arbor, because he believes the Clio lawsuit will end up creating a statewide precedent, whatever the decision ends up being.

"There's not really any need for us to pursue multiple different cases all around the state, when the court of appeals is going to answer the question once and for all." 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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