Beaufort County, South Carolina school board member Dr. Rachel Wisnefski says state law needs to be changed to allow her and other legal concealed carry licensees to have their firearms with them at public meetings. The elected official says she reached that decision after a recent discussion by the school board over ending armed security for the school board meetings. The local school board currently pays $45 an hour to have a deputy attend the meetings, but after a motion was made to end the contract for armed security, Wisnefski says she had to speak out.
“I’m not planning on not coming home from one of these meetings,” Wisnefski said at the meeting. “I’ll state it on the record, I don’t feel safe.”
Although the board ultimately voted to continue having a deputy at its meetings, Wisnefski said she felt concerned about the proposal.
In an op/ed published by FITS News, Wisnefski laid out her objections to the idea of turning school board meetings into a gun free zone.
While I can appreciate good intentions, good intentions often make for bad policy. County Council and School Board meetings have been the targets of shootings in the recent past (Panama City, FL and Kirkwood, Missouri for example) so their exclusion from where law abiding CWP holders can carry is ill-advised. Consider that CWP holders are one of the most law-abiding subsets of the population. Also, elected officials are duty bound to be present at the meetings of their respective governing bodies. Under S.C. Code of Laws § 23-31-215(m)(4), however, elected officials who also are CWP holders are prohibited from carrying concealed into the meetings of their bodies.
According to the school board member, the recent discussion about ending the board’s contract with the sheriff’s office centered not only around the cost of having a deputy at every meeting, but also the “image” projected by having an armed officer on hand. That seems like a pretty silly argument to me. What image is projected by having an armed response to potential hostilities other than “you are not defenseless”?
Wisnefski points out that the school board ultimately decided to keep the contract in place, but the larger issue remains.
However, if this challenge is true for a county of our size, then in smaller counties or districts with less law enforcement, then the only thing standing in the way of a criminal with a firearm and the public, may be a CWP holder. Having fought the motion to remove our law enforcement presence at our School Board meetings, I implore the S.C. General Assembly to revisit SC Code 23-31-215(m)’s restrictions for law abiding CWP holders.
Good for Dr. Wisnefski for recognizing a problem and working to solve it. She’s right about rural counties and smaller school districts likely not being able to afford armed security at public meetings, and she’s also correct in noting that public meetings have been the targets of shootings in the recent past. Hopefully other educators and school board members around the state will join Wisnefski in calling for changes to South Carolina law in order to increase the safety and security of those in attendance at public meetings across the state.