Posted: 10/13/2005 1:49:53 PM EDT
Daily Press, Newport News, Va.
Gotta worry about the people on the school board, they just dont seem to get it, people like Chet are there to help. I think he's a great american
Where do guns fit in?
SCHOOL BOARD: YORK MAN LEGALLY TOOK PISTOL TO MEETING
York school officials want the law amended to prevent firearms at meetings after a parent wore his gun.
BY BEVERLY N. WILLIAMS
October 13, 2005
YORK -- When Chet Szymecki does anything - goes to the store, pumps gas at the local Wawa, mows his lawn - he wears his handgun on his hip.
So last month, when the 38-year-old father of three decided to attend the York County School Board meeting to voice concerns about a cell phone tower proposed at Dare Elementary School, he called the Sheriff's Office to find out if he could take the gun with him.
He could. So, he holstered his .45-caliber Heckler & Koch on Sept. 26, just like he does every day, and headed for York Hall in Yorktown where the board meets each month. He waited his turn to speak and when called, spoke for the three minutes he was allotted and sat back down.
All the while, Szymecki's gun was in plain sight of the board members, students, parents, teachers and school employees in the room. It also was visible to anyone watching the meeting broadcast on York's public access channel.
It was perfectly legal.
But the School Board is upset, so upset that it wants the state to change its laws. In a letter sent to several local legislators this week, the board asked them to consider amending the law to prohibit firearms at school board meetings regardless of whether they're held on school property.
"We're not infringing upon people's rights to bear arms," said board Chairman Mark Medford. "It's just a common-sense issue. We don't want to have weapons at our School Board meeting, because if someone decided to snap or got angry about a decision we make, we don't want the worst-case scenario."
Medford wrote: "Our concern is for the safety and well being of the students present at this school-related activity. Thankfully, nothing happened. But it would seem prudent to take action before a tragedy occurs."
Szymecki said Wednesday that he didn't realize carrying the gun to the meeting would create such a stir. He carries the gun solely for protection.
"I wasn't saying, 'Hey, I'll show you,' " he said. "The primary reason I was there was the cell tower. I had read the code and checked to make sure I wasn't violating any laws, and I called the sheriff's to discuss their interpretation of it."
"The first thing that came to my mind was the word 'school,' " Szymecki said. "I wasn't sure where the School Board fell in that, and where they meet used to be a courthouse, so I also asked about that. I wanted to double-, triple-check with everybody."
Medford learned about Szymecki's plan from the Sheriff's Office. He immediately notified school officials and the other board members and made arrangements with the Sheriff's Office to have two deputies at the meeting.
"It brought up some valid points: Should a citizen have the legal right to come with a gun to a meeting like ours at a nonschool site," Medford said. "Are we a continuation of a student function because we have students and parents at our meetings on a regular basis?
"This is something that could affect all school boards in the state," he said.
Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said changing the law would only affect law-abiding citizens like Szymecki, whom he said did the responsible thing by calling to check on the legality of bringing a gun to the meeting. The league advocates for gun rights throughout the state.
"We'd definitely oppose this change to the law," he said. "Their presumption is backwards because putting up a law doesn't stop the bad guy, and just because they feel afraid, they can't infringe on people's rights."
Del. Tom Gear, R-Hampton, agreed. "He has a right to bear arms, and he has a permit," Gear said. "If I was at the School Board meeting, I'd have felt safe because I'm not worried about that guy. It's the wackos that you don't know anything about, who don't say anything that you need to be worried about.
"It's clear that the people who have permits are not breaking the law," he said. "I would not support changing the law."
Frank Barham, executive director of the Virginia School Boards Association in Richmond, said the group plans to help York County lobby its legislative proposal to change the law, but he doubts it will win.
"I don't think this will get anywhere, because people with concealed-weapons permits can go to restaurants or walk down the streets where there are children," Barham said. "But I think this will cause most school boards that do meet off school property to meet on school grounds."
Medford said moving York's board meetings to another site would be costly and hamper its ability to televise the meetings. But Barham said that might change one day, if more people start bringing guns to School Board meetings.
"The safety and welfare of children," he said, "comes before a televised meeting."
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God love ya, Del. Tom Gear, R-Hampton!
Sheeple don't wike thew widdle world view to change. So they're OK with das polizei being the only ones to carry.
(btw open carry is not my style, but good for this guy... and good luck getting a fair shake in the newsmedia...)