The Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies has moved to suspend the licenses of school districts who were using the licenses to arm teachers as security guards. The suspensions are being initially imposed for 60 days. In September, school districts will have the opportunity to appear before the board and make their case. However, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the chairman of the board said he will push to have the licenses permanently revoked. Ironically, the board says the licenses were suspended because of “public health and safety concerns.”
You should recall that this entire debacle was prompted by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s infamous ‘decree’ that teachers could not be armed. To arrive at this conclusion, McDaniel interpreted the term “entity” to to mean an inherently private place in one of his recent official opinions. This interpretation seems suspect, because McDaniel interpreted just the same term to mean public place just a few weeks earlier in a different opinion. McDaniel’s willingness to reinterpret the meaning of statutory terms from month to month is troubling, because his changes weaken gun rights — not strengthen them.
As I reported earlier this month, the Lake Hamilton school district has been licensing teachers as security guards for 25 years. The AP reports that about a dozen school districts hold the licenses. Remarkably, there are no reports of mass shootings at any of these schools.
So, what happens now? Will Arkansas teachers continue to be stripped of their rights? In light of recent developments, Second Amendment advocates should consider another strategy.
Nick Stehle of Arkansas Carry, the state’s largest gun rights advocacy group, says Arkansas teachers should be deputized and allowed to carry handguns as auxiliary officers:
Arkansas Carry strongly disagrees with the blatantly partisan and dangerous actions taken by the licensing board and AG McDaniel. Their blind political activism endangers our children. We strongly encourage sheriffs in affected counties to deputize teachers as provided by Act 705 of 2013.
Act 705, sponsored by Senator David Wyatt, provides that an unlimited number of auxiliary officers can be appointed as school officers:
The limitation concerning number of auxiliary law enforcement officers allowed to be appointed by a law enforcement agency under this section does not apply to additional auxiliary law enforcement officers appointed by political subdivisions to serve as school resource officers or search and rescue officers.
In addition, Arkansas Code Annotated 5-73-119(e)(3) outlines laws for possession of a handgun on school property. It appears that, under this statute, deputized teachers would be allowed to carry on school grounds:
It is a defense to prosecution under this section that at the time of the act of possessing a handgun or firearm:
(3) The person is assisting a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or member of the armed forces acting in the course and scope of his or her official duties pursuant to the direction or request of the law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or member of the armed forces;
Overall, I tend to think that all of these statutes are essentially window dressing: we have a federal Second Amendment in this country that allows us to bear arms. Under our state constitution, we have the right to bear arms — protected with arguably stronger language than the federal constitution. And even more importantly, we have a natural right to self-defense. These rights don’t stop the moment you walk onto public property — or wherever else Dustin McDaniel decrees. However, because the legal recognition of our rights is so important, gun rights advocates should explore whatever options we have.