The Hampstead School District has approved a ban on guns inside its schools.
The policy goes into effect immediately. Only police officers will be allowed to carry guns inside school buildings or on school buses.
NHPR's Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with the Hampstead Superintendent Earl Metzler about why school officials decided to create this policy.
I want to ask you, why did the district feel that this ban was necessary?
Well, this is something that we've been talking about for several years in certainly talking about school safety and security. So, you know, this isn't a one-trick pony kind of to take care of safety. This is just one of many of the steps that they had taken. So, you know, we were patiently waiting. We thought perhaps maybe a law would pass and that did not happen. So, we fundamentally believe that there's no place for guns, or weapons of that matter, in our schools in any way, shape or form.
But you would not have made this particular policy rule if Governor Sununu had not vetoed the gun-free school bill?
That's correct. We don't write policies where there are already laws in place. But sometimes we have to write policies to govern our buildings or govern our school district in that regard. So I would say it was not necessarily inspiration, but I think it really moved things along, because we had been investigating this obviously with our law firm. And it was looking at a way that we could keep our schools safe and not infringe on anybody's rights.
So that brings up a good point, though, because you did obviously consult with your lawyer before making this policy. I wanted to ask you how that worked, because other districts have tried to do this in the past, but they've been unsuccessful. What is it about your particular policy in Hampstead that you feel will pass legal muster?
We already regulate the insides of our secured buildings. Like, for instance, if somebody showed up with an open container of alcohol, you wouldn't let them in the building either. So, people sign. It's about not disrupting the daily operations of the school.
Now, remember, this is just during school hours while school is in session. And I think if you look through the policy, you'll see that people's Second Amendment rights have not been infringed upon. And I really think that's where it will pass the test in terms of what we can and cannot do about regulating visitors. Think of how scary this is. You know, you think the courts are going to tell us that we can't regulate visitors in our schools while school's in session and think that that wouldn't be disruptive? Now, these aren't just buildings where the doors are open, where people can walk through freely whenever they want.
So you're saying that this is a different situation than, say, a public park or some other public space where a lawful gun owner could walk through that space and be within their rights to carry the gun? You're saying in the school you have the right to regulate weaponry and anything else that may be passing through the school?
Inside the building, correct. The grounds are not part of this policy. So if someone felt the need to walk their son, or daughter or grandchild to the school, they'd be able to walk them to the door. They just wouldn't be able to enter with a weapon. We're talking secured places, not public places. So a school building, albeit a public building, is a secured facility for obvious reasons. So I think there's a significant difference in terms of a park or even school grounds for that matter, as opposed to a secure building where a school is in session.
If someone did walk into the building with a gun, what's the process for removing them?
Yeah, the process would entail a series of steps in a very respectful way. You know, administrators would ask that person to leave and maybe lock the weapon up and in their car in a lockbox, an appropriate place. In the event that they refuse to leave, certainly the [school resource officer] would be involved and they would be escorted out. And the likelihood is a no trespass order would be issued at some point, but in a very respectful way. The other misunderstanding here is I think we're not arresting people. You'd just be trespassing, and we'd ask you to leave.
Have you received any pushback from parents or others in the community?
Parents have been incredibly supportive because I think they understand the spirit behind the policy. You know, I've had a couple of people reach out, and I do believe that they've been conveniently misinformed. I don't believe they've read the policy. I don't believe they understand the spirit of the policy. So I think when people take a look at it, and they'll look at the case laws and the way our law firm went about making sure that we drafted a policy that would be solid, I think they'll understand.
You know, we may agree to disagree in terms of what people think they can and cannot do with the Second Amendment. However, our safety and security of staff and students isn't up for debate. That's something we're going to take every measure possible. This in itself is not the only measure. You know, you hear things like a piece of paper isn't going to keep kids safe. Of course not. But if you do everything and anything you can to make sure staff and students are as safe as they possibly can be -- there are no guarantees in this world, but I applaud the work of the school board because I think they've done everything that they can. And we'll continue to explore other ways to make the school as safe as we possibly can for both staff and students.