Whitefish Bay — On the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, more than 60 people came to a Whitefish Bay School Board meeting to oppose possible legislation that would allow guns in schools.
No legislation has been formally introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature, but state Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) said in November that he plans to introduce a bill that would allow licensed gun owners to carry firearms in private schools, and eventually in public schools. Current state law prohibits firearms within 1,000 feet of a school.
The possibility of guns in schools has prompted school boards across the state to speak up. The first in the North Shore suburbs is the Whitefish Bay School Board, which adopted a resolution on Dec.14 opposing any legislation allowing guns in schools. The Nicolet School Board adopted a similar resolution the following night.
The Shorewood School Board on Dec. 13 agreed to adopt a resolution at its next meeting. The Fox Point-Bayside School Board is expected to approve a resolution on Dec. 20.
In Whitefish Bay, the nonprofit group Advocates for Education circulated an online petition that gathered more than 300 signatures in a week. The group also encouraged residents to voice their opinions at the Dec. 14 school board meeting, where 21 people urged the school board to speak out against the legislation.
The speakers were concerned about the possibility of allowing guns into classrooms, as well as sporting events, school concerts and other functions where members of the public are invited.
Whitefish Bay resident Julia Gimbel said that "by opening up the doors and allowing people to walk through them with firearms in their pocket, it creates the most basic potential for a gunshot incident to occur."
Several people said the four-hour training requirement for a concealed carry permit is not sufficient. Whitefish Bay parent Michelle Cloud said "just about anybody can get a permit in Wisconsin" and that applicants for a concealed carry permit don't have to prove they have ever handled a firearm.
"Let's join together to protect our kids from worrying about who has a gun, whether they are a good guy or a bad guy or whether they even know how to use it," she said.
Whitefish Bay parent Melanie Ariens said she will not allow her children to go to a school where guns are allowed.
"The only reason a gun should enter a school is if it's being carried by a police professional and they have a reason to be there with that weapon," she said.
Several school board members said their time and energy would be better spent on education-oriented issues, but they felt it was important to take a strong stand against the concept of guns in schools. Like many other school districts, the idea of allowing guns in schools goes against Whitefish Bay’s existing district policy.
School board member Pam Woodard was reluctant to approve a resolution on the same night as the public hearing, and was also reluctant to respond to legislation that hadn't yet been introduced. Noting that she does not want guns in schools, she urged members of the public to call their legislators about the matter, as the voices of voters are more likely to affect change than the voice of a school board.
School board member Doug Armstrong and other board members were concerned that any concealed carry in the schools legislation could get fast-tracked without a public hearing. Armstrong said it was best for Whitefish Bay to get out in front of the legislation before they lose the chance to weigh in.
"This seems to cross a line that we never had to think of being crossed before," he said. "For the safety of our children and for the safety of our schools, I think we need to show some leadership here."