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Arlington school officials to join discussion on armed employees

Arlington panel discussion will focus on allowing concealed weapons on campus

01/20/2013 10:44 PM

01/20/2013 10:56 PM

ARLINGTON -- The idea of allowing teachers, administrators and staff members with state licenses to carry their concealed handguns on campuses was summarily rejected by the Arlington school board last year, but has been revived in the wake of the school shootings in Connecticut last year.

Arlington school board President Peter Baron and Trustee John Hibbs are scheduled to sit down next week with gun-rights activists David McElwee and Bill Sandlin to talk about the idea.

The panel, sponsored by the Arlington Alliance for Responsible Government, a civic watchdog group, will be 6-8 p.m. Jan. 28 at Cokers Barbecue, 2612 W. Pioneer Parkway. A handgun instructor also will be there to explain requirements for a concealed-weapons license.

When he first proposed the idea a year ago, McElwee said, he heard from people who were irate and called Sandlin and him "gun nuts."

"This time it is a very different reaction," McElwee said. "It has been very positive. I haven't gotten any negative phone calls at all. And I've gotten calls from teachers and parents, which is different than last time."

Baron said he disagrees about arming school employees but agreed to the panel discussion.

"Someone needs to present the other side," said Baron, who added that he hasn't heard a "groundswell for a change [in the gun policy] on the board."

Boosting security

Last week, school administrators recommended installing buzzer/camera systems at the main entrances of all 51 grade schools to enhance the existing security cameras. A visitor-screening system and new keyless entry system would be included in the systems.

The estimated cost of $224,400 could come out of the $10.6 million in surplus 2009 bond funds that are earmarked for security infrastructure, administrators told school trustees.

"I'm all in favor of that. It's a good idea that the public will be amenable to," Baron said. "It is no more inconvenient than looking through the peephole to see who is at the front door."

The Harrold school district, west of Wichita Falls, has allowed educators with concealed-carry licenses to have their guns on campus since 2007. Last week, the Union Grove school district in East Texas voted to allow some teachers and administrators with training to carry concealed weapons.

The Arlington district contracts with the city police department for officers at junior and senior high schools. Campuses conduct drills to prepare teachers and students for emergencies.

Alliance Chairman Richard Weber said his group decided to set up the panel because the issue needs to be discussed.

"It's a hot topic," Weber said. "I didn't know if the school board members would do it, and I got two to accept."

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

Max B. Baker, 817-390-7714

Twitter: @MaxBBaker

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