Michigan high court to hear arguments on guns in schools

LANSING (AP) — Michigan’s high court is expected to weigh in next year on whether school districts can ban anyone not in law enforcement from carrying guns onto school grounds.

The Michigan Supreme Court last week invited school districts and gun rights groups in a disputed lower-court decision to file written arguments. Oral arguments are expected in coming months, though a hearing date hasn’t been set, the Detroit News reported.

The legal battle stems from a 2016 appellate court ruling that public schools can ban guns from their premises, citing more than two dozen state laws with language referencing “weapon-free school zones.” The ruling rejected a challenge by gun rights groups and parents who are licensed to carry firearms.

Gun rights advocates said the court was wrong to find Ann Arbor Public Schools and the Clio Area School District aren’t in conflict with state law, which prohibits local governments from regulating gun possession.

The Ann Arbor district banned all guns on school property and school-sponsored activities in 2015 after Ulysses Wong, a parent, openly carried a firearm into a high school music concert. Under the district’s rules, bringing a gun into the school would constitute an emergency and result in evacuation or other response strategies.

“We don’t know the intent of anyone who’s bringing a gun into one of our events or our buildings,” said Christine Stead, vice president of the Education Board for Ann Arbor. “It’s hard to assess that, and we don’t even have the right to ask whether the person has a (concealed pistol) permit.”

Michigan Gun Owners Inc. and Wong sued over the rules, arguing state law comes before local gun regulations. Michigan law prohibits most permit-holders from carrying concealed pistols into schools, but it doesn’t specifically prohibit them from openly carrying their weapons.

“Regardless of how you feel about the issue, a local school board does not have more authority than the state Legislature, period,” said Jim Makowski, an attorney for the gun rights group. “State law totally regulates the field of firearms.”