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CMS to staff: Keep vehicle locked if you bring a gun

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employees who store handguns in their vehicles under a new state law could be fired and face criminal charges if they fail to lock the vehicle and the gun gets stolen.

The CMS school board reluctantly but unanimously approved a revised gun policy Tuesday that’s in line with the state law passed this summer. It allows people who have concealed-carry permits to have handguns locked in vehicles on school grounds. It does not allow people to bring guns into school buildings.

CMS had lobbied against the change, and several board members voiced concerns that having guns in parking lots, even if vehicles are locked, is a bad idea. Some scoffed at the notion that those guns could be used to defend against an armed attack.

“This is not about school safety. I don’t care what folks say. This is convenience,” said Vice Chairman Tim Morgan, who said he has a concealed-carry permit. “This is completely and totally unnecessary. It creates risk on our campuses.”

“It’s an invitation to theft,” said board member Rhonda Lennon, who noted that guns can be stolen from locked vehicles.

Superintendent Heath Morrison and board members said CMS must comply with the law. “This is a change we hate to make,” said board member Ericka Ellis-Stewart.

In a Q&A to explain the new policy, CMS warns employees that if they leave a vehicle unlocked and their gun is stolen, they could face criminal penalties, civil liability and disciplinary action, including termination.

The Q&A also warns employees not to let anyone else, especially students, unlock their vehicle if it contains a gun.

“The law permits vehicles to be unlocked by the concealed handgun permit holder only to allow people to enter or exit the vehicle,” it says. “You must never put students in the position of being able to access weapons, even if they are legally stored in your vehicle. If you allow others to control your vehicle (and the handgun stored in the vehicle) you may be putting yourself in legal jeopardy.”

Employees do not have to notify supervisors or parents if they have a handgun in a vehicle, the Q&A says. Nor do parents have to notify the school if they bring a gun onto the grounds in accordance with the law. Students aren’t likely to be affected because concealed-carry permit holders have to be at least 21.

Helms: 704-358-5033; Twitter: @anndosshelms
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