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MailTribune.com
  • Gun issue raises concerns

    Possibility of teachers carrying concealed guns on campus alarms parents, students
  • A controversy over a teacher who wants to bring a concealed weapon on a Medford high school campus has stirred up debate among parents, students and officials.
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  • A controversy over a teacher who wants to bring a concealed weapon on a Medford high school campus has stirred up debate among parents, students and officials.
    "I think it's a stupid idea," said Destiny Belleque, a South Medford High School junior. "What if a kid got a hold of it?"
    The teacher, who the Medford School District has declined to identify, was approached by district officials after they heard rumors she was carrying a concealed weapon on campus. The teacher denied the accusation and agreed to comply with district policy prohibiting firearms on school grounds, they said.
    Now, backed by the Oregon Firearms Federation, the teacher intends to ask a Jackson County Circuit Court judge to declare the policy "illegal and void" for holders of concealed handgun licenses.
    District officials said they will fight the complaint, citing the safety of students and staff.
    Belleque said she would prefer the school district consider more security measures to make the campus safer rather than ever entertain the idea of teachers with guns.
    But Jacksonville resident Jeff Borchers said he thinks the district should have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding concealed weapons.
    He said the possibility of teachers having guns on campus could be a deterrent to some crime.
    If the district remains steadfast in not allowing guns on campus, Borchers said it could expose the schools to potential liability if there was a shooting and nobody had the weapon to stop it.
    "What if they excluded guns from campus, and another nut case shows up?" he said.
    Borchers said he decided to get a concealed handgun license after he and his wife were accosted on a walkway in Corvallis several years ago. "I think of it as fire insurance," he said.
    The 56-year-old said he doesn't know whether his opinion would change if he had children. "Perhaps that's colored my thinking on this," he said.
    Sen. Alan Bates, a gun owner, said there is nothing in the state law that prevents a person with a concealed handgun license from entering a campus with a gun.
    The Ashland Democrat said he believes the decision to allow weapons on campus should be made by each individual school district.
    "I would favor writing a law saying a school district should make its own policy," he said.
    Bates said he remembers that about 20 or 30 years ago, some schools in Oregon allowed students to bring rifles to campus during deer hunting season.
    Bates said he would be willing to discuss the issue in the Legislature, but would like to hear from both sides.
    He said he understands there is some logic to the idea that if a teacher had a gun it could potentially prevent a tragedy.
    It is not clear why the Medford teacher wants to carry a weapon on campus. Her lawyer, Jim Leuenberger of Portland, said she had divorced her husband and obtained a restraining order against him. When contacted by the Mail Tribune, the woman said she wanted to remain anonymous because she feared for her and her daughter's safety.
    It also is not clear whether she ever brought a gun to work with her.
    Sheriff Sgt. Bob Grantham said a rough estimate of the number of Jackson County residents with concealed handgun licenses is 10,000.
    Following the Virginia Tech shootings in April, the number of applications for permits locally spiked to 343 in May compared to an average of about 200 a month, said Grantham.
    Since then, the number of applications has settled back down to 200 a month, he said.
    Grantham didn't have statistics on which gender took out the most permits, but he suspected the majority of applicants were men.
    For some parents with children in school, the idea of having a concealed weapon on campus is inconceivable.
    "Absolutely not," said Nancy Flowers, who has one child at South Medford High and one at McLoughlin Middle School. "To bring a gun on campus is just unacceptable."
    She said the danger of an accidental shooting far outweighs any supposed benefit in protecting the campus from a crazed shooter.
    "More can go wrong than it can go right," she said.
    Bringing a gun on campus also raises other issues about how and where it would be stored, such as in a car, in a purse or in a locked desk, she said.
    Allen Henrichs, whose youngest child is a senior at South Medford High School, said, "I'm against it. It's not a good idea. I think schools in general are not a place to have weapons."
    He thinks the school administration makes an effort to make the campus as safe as possible.
    He said he's heard the argument about guns being a deterrent, but he's not buying it.
    "What about accidentally shooting themselves or other people?" said Henrichs.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.
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