North Carolina divided on guns in schools

Grass Roots North Carolina led a rally Tuesday afternoon at Halifax mall, adjacent to the General Assembly Legislative Building in opposition to proposed gun control laws. Nearly 1,000 people were present to support the extension of handgun freedom into restaurants and schools.

The rally was in response to recent conversations regarding the solution to gun violence in public places. President Barack Obama announced 23 executive orders he plans to implement to prevent tragedies like the Sandy Hook shooting.

“We had two objectives, the first was to deliver the message to federal lawmakers in North Carolina that we will not tolerate any compromises,” Grass Roots North Carolina president Paul Valone said. “Absolutely nothing about the proposed changes is acceptable, and they need to just die.”

Valone said the rally was successful, based on the attendance and excitement. But according to some North Carolina teachers the organization’s support for principals and teachers in North Carolina carrying concealed handguns in schools is not universal.

“I would not carry a concealed weapon,” said Joan Barnatt, Assistant Professor of education at Elon University. “I think there’s potential for more problems. I’ve worked in schools where police carried weapons and you knew they did because they were obvious. But concealed weapons is something entirely different.”

Other professors at Elon’s School of Education shared similar views.

“There are other ways to attempt to protect the school,” lecturer Marna Winter said. “Hillcrest elementary has a doorbell system on the front door.”

In fact, all elementary schools in Alamance County are supposed to be enforcing a doorbell policy after 7:50 a.m., according to Angie Workman,  N.C. Wise data manager at Hillcrest Elementary. Once school starts, the building doors are locked, forcing parents, staff and all visitors to ring a bell for entry.

Despite initiatives like this, some said there is a lot left to be done to keep schools safe.

Diane Saylor, program assistant at the School of Education, said front offices and school employees should be paying more attention.

“In the schools, the first line of defense is the office,” she said. “They need people to be more alert.”

Despite this opposition to Grass Roots North Carolina’s mission, Valone said many people in the state are supportive.

“It was extraordinarily successful,” he said. “When you get a crowd big enough that when you lead them in a cheer of ‘We will not compromise’ and it is echoing off the walls of the legislative building and quite probably rattling the building, I think that means it’s successful.”


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