School gun debate must be public

The North Dakota House has foolishly passed a bill allowing people with concealed weapon permits to carry guns on school grounds, if the school district allows it.

That decision in itself creates a whole host of items for discussion. We’ll save that topic for another day, and instead focus on an unnecessary provision in House Bill 1215 that allows school boards to discuss a concealed weapons policy during a private executive session instead of during a public school board hearing. That, quite simply, is unacceptable, and the state Senate should reject this bill.

Supporters of holding discussion in secret executive session argued that a potential shooter would target schools known to be gun-free, and that by holding the policy discussion in private, no one outside of school officials and law enforcement would know who, if anyone, might be carrying a concealed weapon at a school.

That argument is misguided, and is easily trumped by the public’s right to know. Parents and other members of a community deserve to know whether their local school has adopted a concealed weapons policy or not, and members of the public must be allowed to voice their opinions in a public forum.

A school board should absolutely hold any and all gun policy discussion in public settings and make the final decision during a public meeting. Then the district superintendent could make the decision on who will be allowed to carry concealed weapons, notifying the proper school officials and area law enforcement agencies, of course.

But allowing school boards or any other public entity to legally hold more executive sessions is contrary to North Dakota’s proud tradition of a state that believes public boards should conduct public business in public.

It really is that simple.