Whether guns should be allowed on school campuses ranges among Williamson candidates running for school board.
Candidates running for Williamson seven different school board seats unequivocally agreed they would need more research before deciding if anyone else other than student resource officers should carry armed weapons.
In a candidate forum hosted by Home Page Media Group and Williamson, Inc. Thursday night, each district’s candidates had the opportunity to share where they stood on various issues. Readers submitted questions, with guns on campuses being one of them. Next week, the Tennessee Board of Regents will address a proposed policy on firearms on campuses, which would include the new Williamson location for Columbia State Community College.
Both District One candidates said they owned firearms, and said it would be worth exploring. The District One seat is currently open after Kenneth Peterson moved to Hawaii.
“I definitely agree someone needs to be armed especially in light of all the different attacks at schools,” candidate Angela Durham said. “Me, personally, I own guns. I am an advocate of the gun. I want to be able to protect myself if needed. I know there are a lot of rules about bringing guns into certain areas. I would have to really think through it, look at all the pros and cons and at how we would manage that.”
Her opponent Richard Davis said he remembered a time in Williamson County Schools when students could bring firearms to campus, usually in the back of a pickup truck after hunting, he said. Though he said he recognized that times had changed since he attended high school in light of a myriad of school shootings over time.
“They are tools, not toys,” Davis said. “It’s a different world today. I am glad we have the officers on site. I am very thankful the sheriff has put those officers in there. I think we would have to look at something like that really hard. I am sure there are a lot of teachers that have been through the military or have been police officers. People that should have the training already. I will say it’s something it would need to be looked at, but I wouldn’t be adverse to it either.”
Though District Four candidates Joey Czarneski and Anne McGraw said they weren’t sure guns on campuses was the best route to take and wanted to evaluate any research on the topic before making a decision.
Czarneski said he doesn’t currently own a gun but has in the past. He said he’s glad the schools have the SROs, but believes that there are people the school system who have military and law enforcement experience.
“If we went down that road, I think those would be the people we would need to look at,” he said. “I don’t know that we are currently at the point that it’s something we need to implement. I would not be opposed to implementing that, but until we got more research and a little bit more information, I wouldn’t be able to say today I would vote yes versus no.”
McGraw, who is the incumbent in the race, said for her the decision would come down to what teachers thought. She said she would want to analyze the situation carefully given that it would result in more firearms on a campus. She said as a parent, she felt good knowing SROs were at her daughters’ school every day.
“I think they are there for a reason,” she said. “They are very trained and very equipped for their job. If this issue were to come up, there’s just not a lot of research on if this would make the schools safer or not. We just don’t know. And in these situations, I would look to the teachers to ask how they feel about it. Because every national poll that’s been done on the topic, teachers overwhelmingly say they don’t want more guns in their schools.”