Few Oregon schools have chosen to ban guns on campus

Last year, all public school districts in Oregon were given the opportunity to ban guns from their properties.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that most refused to do so.

Since a September law change in Oregon, only 13% of public school districts in the state have opted to close an exemption that allows concealed handgun license holders to carry guns on a public property where possession of a firearm would otherwise be a crime.

According to an analysis by the OPB, that list includes some districts in the Portland metro area — but not yet Portland’s public schools — as well as more rural school systems. Among the 25 that have banned guns are districts of Klamath Falls, Myrtle Point, Tillamook, Pendleton, Tigard-Tualatin, Lake Oswego and Woodburn.

The vast majority of the state’s 197 public school districts have, to date, taken no action.

Whether or not to ban guns in schools has been a contentious point in Oregon, where one estimate suggests gun ownership is more widespread than in many other states.

The murder of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has led many Americans to demand action to restrict access to guns — a dynamic on display this weekend, when the candidate Independent gubernatorial Betsy Johnson faced heated questions about her pro-gun stance from a crowd in Portland.

Gun rights groups and sympathetic politicians, meanwhile, insist that having armed citizens nearby during an attack could limit the damage from mass shootings. Opponents of Oregon’s 2021 bill have suggested that new restrictions are more likely to make public spaces less safe because CHL holders are extremely law-abiding. Mass shooters, they point out, don’t care about gun bans.

In Oregon, concealed handgun license holders must be at least 21 years old and must pass a background check and complete a firearms safety training course before receiving a license. In return for these measures, people with CHL have long had the ability to bring their guns to places where firearms are otherwise prohibited.

With SB 554, lawmakers have curtailed this privilege. They have banned firearms in the State Capitol and the Portland International Airport terminal, whether or not a person has a concealed handgun permit. And they gave public schools, colleges and universities the ability to implement their own bans.

A separate provision of state law, unaffected by the bill, allows firearms to be legally held on school property as long as they are unloaded and locked in a vehicle, regardless of actions of a school board.

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