BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) --With Alabama's new gun law in place, some say the question about guns on school property is still not settled.
Not everyone agrees on what is and is not allowed. This disagreement continues, despite clarifications from educators and institutions about gun free zones on school property.
When tempers flare like they can around athletics or for that matter- school traffic- one attorney who has examined the new gun law- and some prior state laws- says there is room for debate and possibly concern about guns on campus.
"Especially as we get into the cooler season people wearing jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts- things like that. The person sitting next to you at a football game may be armed legally with a permit and you may never know it's there," said Daniel Burnick, Birmingham attorney.
If that's a scary thought- here's another question:
"The Walker County situation with the coaches who got into a fight there, how quickly could that have escalated if somebody in the stands had a gun? It may or may not we'll never know," said Burnick.
In August, State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice sent out a letter clarifying that guns are forbidden on school property- citing a 1991 state law.
Birmingham attorney Daniel Burnick argues that amendments from 1994 changed that:
"So I think if somebody does have a concealed carry permit and they have a weapon on school property I think that is permitted under the Alabama law that Dr. Bice does not reference in his letter," said Burnick. "If I'm going to school to have lunch with my child or go to see a play and I'm carrying a weapon and I have a permit there's no intent to harm anyone, I'm calm, I'm cool, I say hi to everybody- is that a violation? My interpretation of 13A-11-72 is no it's not. However, again I would not recommend doing that."
The Alabama Department of Education stands by the information in State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice's Aug. 7th memorandum according to statements issued today.
ALSDE issued the following response:
"The ALSDE has consistently taken the position that possession of weapons on school property is contrary to the policy adopted by the State Board of Education. The only exception is the possession of weapons by law enforcement officers. The Safe School and Drug-Free Act provided for the adoption of our policy because of the ‘compelling public interest in ensuring the schools are made safe and drug free for all students and school employees.' The law also provides for the enforcement of the law's provisions. We believe the interest in protecting our school children and employees is paramount."
Burnick thinks that right extends to public universities too based on his interpretation of the new gun law which took effect this year, but since the new law took effect several state institutions have put out notice that guns are off limits on campus.
"A person is able to have a weapon in a public place. It's my understanding that a public university is in fact a public place, so the question then becomes - does a policy, a state policy, override state law? I don't think a school policy does override state law however the gun law is somewhat confusing to some people I believe that it will ultimately end up in court to see what it really means and what it doesn't mean," said Burnick.
He thinks that question may play out in the courts or the legislature or both.
Alabama District Attorney's Association President Richard Minor says the biggest question about the state gun law is likely to boil down to property rights when it comes to people who live on college campuses.
As for how law enforcement is addressing the new law now- there are stipulations in the law for locations clearly marked as gun free zones- and equipped with guards, and other security measures.
Minor says people carrying guns may be asked to leave or face trespassing charges.
Regardless of state law he says there is a federal law against bringing guns to schools with exceptions for police and security personnel.
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