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Central California School Board Votes To Allow Employees To Carry Guns

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

On Monday, a school board in Central California voted to allow school employees within its district to carry guns. There's a high school, a continuation school and online independent studies school in the Kingsburg Joint Union High School District. As many as five staff or faculty could be armed. They'll receive firearms training, but they will be anonymous.

The superintendent of the school district is Randy Morris, and he joins us by phone. Welcome to the program, sir.

RANDY MORRIS: Thank you.

SIEGEL: And these schools, which I guess - they share a common campus - don't have police officers or security guards stationed there. And this particular area of Fresno County doesn't seem to have a very high crime rate. Why do you need or support this policy?

MORRIS: That's fairly simple. And if you look at school tragedies, there's an intermit time between when the tragedy kicks off and response from law enforcement. The impetus behind this policy in its most simplest form is a solution to limit or eliminate casualties during that response time moment, should it occur.

SIEGEL: The school employees to be armed would obviously have permits to carry concealed weapons. Why, then, keep them anonymous? Why not say that these people are our security officers?

MORRIS: Well, I think for their own protection. I wouldn't want to expose them to scrutiny because they are willing to take on the great responsibility of protecting our children and our colleagues.

SIEGEL: What kind of training will they receive?

MORRIS: The training - the initial training required by the sheriff's department is a six-hour training course. In addition to that, we will have a training course set up for them that discusses holstering and unholstering a weapon, how to conceal it the best way, how to access it and also - how do we respond when first responders would get to the scene?

SIEGEL: Are you at all concerned that, say, a teacher or an assistant principal who has been trained and is caring weapon would not jump the gun - would not use that weapon in a moment of some kind of violence or untoward behavior or some kid breaking a window that might look dangerous, but a law enforcement officer would know not to shoot in that instance?

MORRIS: No, I'm not concerned about that at all because the vetting process - well - the intent of the vetting process is to really narrow it down so specifically that folks have a great understanding of what situation we're identifying as life-threatening.

Comparably, law enforcement officers face much scrutiny all the time - every time they draw their weapon. And God forbid we should have to draw a weapon. But in that case, I would totally expect and welcome scrutiny in this situation. But I'm not concerned about accident shooting or accidental use or inappropriate abuse of the privilege of being armed on campus.

SIEGEL: By the way, have you seen any information from school districts where people have been armed and where they have used weapons and prevented killings?

MORRIS: No, I have not.

SIEGEL: That doesn't diminish your confidence in doing this?

MORRIS: No. You know, I just - my confidence comes from a commonsense approach that if somebody is trying to hurt somebody that's important to me, then I'm going to do everything I can to stop them from doing so. We don't want to take the place of the professionals. We just want a solution for the time lapse between the occurrence and when the professionals can get there.

SIEGEL: Mr. Morris, thanks for talking with us today.

MORRIS: Oh, my pleasure.

SIEGEL: So Randy Morris, superintendent of the Kingsburg Joint Union High School District in Fresno County, Calif. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.