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Handguns are now legal at my daughter’s elementary school

By Jay Leach
Special to the Observer

We found a disturbing message left on our home answering machine Monday night. In stark, ominous, carefully chosen words, we heard the principal of our daughter’s elementary school explain that weapons have been banned from school property ... until now. Legislation passed this year by North Carolina’s General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory now lifts that ban. So, the principal explained, beginning Tuesday, “handguns may be brought onto school property.”

That was the chilling message from an elementary school principal to the parents of her school: “handguns may be brought onto school property.”

You may find this message neither disturbing nor chilling. Maybe you are among those who think that bringing guns to an elementary school is a good thing. Maybe you are of the opinion that one of the problems we’ve had here in North Carolina is that there are not enough guns on our school grounds. Perhaps you are relieved, maybe even excited to know that there may now be handguns concealed inside any number of the cars now parked in front of our city’s elementary schools.

If you do happen to think that mixing guns with elementary education is a good thing, there are people to thank. Charlotte area Reps. Charles Jeter, Ruth Samuelson and Jacqueline Michelle Schaffer sponsored the bill that makes it possible to bring a handgun onto elementary school property. Rep. Bill Brawley and Speaker Thom Tillis joined them in voting in favor of this bill. Votes cast by Sens. Bob Rucho and Jeff Tarte from Mecklenburg County helped send this legislation to Gov. McCrory, who supported the notion that making it possible to have guns at elementary schools is a step in the right direction for our state.

Our elected officials should have the benefit of hearing from us. So, if you’re excited to know that you can now carry a gun to an elementary school, take a moment to thank these legislators. I’m sure the governor would welcome hearing your approval as well.

I’ll have to admit that I am having trouble seeing the merits of this legislation. I took our daughter to school Tuesday as I do most mornings. I parked in the same place I usually do, alongside a long line of other vehicles, and got out to begin our walk into a school we’ve grown to love. But something felt different. I didn’t feel safer knowing the person parked on either side might now legally be concealing a weapon in his or her car. I didn’t have the sense that our young daughter was better off because all around us in that parking lot there could be handguns legally hidden away in the surrounding cars. I actually shuddered to think that the click of a lock opening the car next to us might now mean there was a gun close at hand.

Amidst all else that gets my attention today, I’m taking a few minutes to express my extreme displeasure to my elected officials. There are many things they could have done to improve public education in North Carolina this year. I just don’t happen to concur that making it possible for handguns to be carried onto our young daughter’s elementary school campus was one of them.

Rev. James C. (Jay) Leach is senior minister at Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte.

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