In 2013, Illinois passed a conceal carry law which superseded previous local laws prohibiting handguns in various communities in District 17.
I was on the District 65 Policy Committee at the time we were required to adopt policy associated with the new law which included the following components. I had real trouble with these in terms of their practical, common sense application in a school environment:
- Requirement 1: We must post those ever so welcoming signs on every school door that tell adults and of course children, in our case ages 0-14, that guns aren't allowed here. The sign is a circle on top of a handgun - not very reassuring to a 6-year-old. We debated over how we could soften this message so as not to scare our students, but there was little latitude. We had to comply, because according to the law, if the signs aren't posted we could not legally make someone leave school grounds who was carrying a concealed weapon. Nice!
- Requirement 2: We must allow people with concealed weapons in their vehicles to be on school property - in our parking lots and on any grounds associated with the school. This one simply floored me. How could one sensibly say that we will protect our schools from guns with a sign and in addition that individuals could actually have those guns on school property while children are playing and coming to and from school? What's more ridiculous is that other properties and their grounds were protected from this "loophole," including train stations and other federal buildings. So our children are not as precious to us as our post offices and federal buildings. I disagreed and sent several communications to our legislators. Of course, they opposed the bill to begin with, but their advice was that this can be a "cooling off period" and we could get back to fixing this issue later. There was, in fact, a "clean up" bill in 2015 but it only loosened requirements as opposed to eliminating this loophole.
Lesson: We have to compromise when political will is shifting in a direction we don't agree with, but we need to understand the implications of concessions and follow the fixes through even if the public doesn't pressure us on them. We cannot compromise when it comes to our children's safety and that of the educators and staff on the front line every day in our schools. Is it too much to ask for someone who is carrying a gun in their vehicle and knows they will be doing pick up or drop off at one of our schools to leave the gun at home (in a safe, secure location). I think not!