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District is the latest to restrict concealed handguns on school property following spate of mass shootings

PMG FILE PHOTO - Portland Public Schools district headquarters. The district's school board voted June 14 to ban all weapons on district property, including concealed handguns carried by those with permits.As school districts in Oregon are reconsidering their weapons policies amid a wave of mass shootings, Portland Public Schools shored up its own rules to be more restrictive.

The district is among several that will now prohibit all guns on school properties, even for those with permits to carry concealed weapons.

PPS already prohibits concealed weapons on its school properties, but a revision in the district's weapons, explosives and fire bombs policy now prohibits anyone from bringing a gun, except for law enforcement or those who work for PPS and are approved by the superintendent to carry a concealed weapon as a function of their job.

The policy change was approved unanimously by the PPS Board of Education Tuesday, June 14.

Statewide, not every school prohibits firearms. Senate Bill 554, approved in 2021, allowed schools to be included in a list of spaces where concealed handguns are prohibited, as long as signage is posted on buildings notifying the public.

A report to school district staff and board members from PPS lawyers notes PPS "has a long history of opposing weapons on district property and in district buildings."

"I feel like this is an important step for us to take," PPS board member Herman Greene said, before suggesting the district commemorate a day in June each year, in which staff and students can wear orange to oppose gun violence.

The weapons policy had been under consideration for language revisions since February, but a recent spate of mass shootings led to the district's policy committee adding teeth to the rules.

"The presence of guns in schools does not make teachers, students and staff feel safer," PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said, advocating instead for anti-violence measures and mental health supports.

Prior to approval, the PPS board received a letter of support from the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and Our Children Oregon, as well as gun control advocacy groups Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action. That was in addition to at least 16 written comments urging the board to adopt a more stringent policy.

Aside from school district action, firearms laws have come into sharp focus nationwide, with calls to tighten restrictions on firearms ownership.

Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese is among those calling for a legislative overhaul.

"As a 30-year public safety professional, a responsible gun owner, and a husband and a father, I am calling for action: to raise the minimum age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to 21, ban high capacity magazines, expand background checks to the national level, and implement extreme risk protective orders," Sheriff Reese said in a June 3 video statement. The sheriff cautioned that "gun violence can't be stopped by only legislation or law enforcement, it will take all of us, working together, to create safe and thriving communities."

PPS School Board Director Michelle DePAss reiterated that the district will use $2.9 million to reinforce its school security systems and combat the threat of gun violence at schools.

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