The Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies is meeting this morning to hear appeals from Clarksville and Lake Hamilton that they continue to be allowed to have employees licensed as security guards for the purpose of having a gun on campus.
A handful of districts have availed themselves of this loophole to the prohibition of guns on campus. But an attorney general's opinion this year said the law didn't allow it and the licenses were suspended. Some districts get people qualified, but keep weapons in a locked place. Clarksville wanted to put 20 people with concealed weapons in its five schools.
Schools may hire outside law enforcement as "resource officers" and they may carry guns, but school districts have said this is too expensive. Lake Hamilton said, however, that its two full-time officers — private security employed by the district and not regular law officers —- cost almost $45,000 a year each.
David Koon is on hand and will report. Clarksville is arguing for a grandfather rule. Let it and others keep existing licenses, but grant no more. I don't think you can grandfather law violations, however.
Board member Curtis, who abstained on Lake Hamilton because he hadn't heard the whole debate, had nonetheless remarked during the discussion that "there is the intent of the law and there is the letter of the law." He asked the board to consider the "common sense" of taking away permits previously granted. "I'd much rather see the safety of the students taken into consideration," he said.
The contradictory vote immediately raised equal protection issues.
UPDATE III: The attorney general's office said the board can rescind its earlier votes and reconsider Lake Hamilton and Clarksville. If that happens and Curtis votes as he's indicated, all would receive 3-2 approval because there'd be no tie and Chairman Ralph Sims' vote — which went against the permits — would not be necessary.
UPDATE IV: It's happening. Clarksville got a 3-2 vote that cleared revocation of its permit. By a similar vote, the board rescinded its earlier suspension of Clarksville's 14 permits (six more were in the pipeline but withdrawn). And, finally, by the same 3-2 vote, it gave Clarksville the same privilege it had earlier given Cutter-Morning Star — two-year licensure with revocation at the end if the legislature doesn't act to clarify the situation. Shortly after, the board did the same series of 3-2 votes for Lake Hamilton.
UPDATE V: With the issue resolved, the board consolidated other pending appeals. Suspensions were lifted and two-year extensions were given to Ashdown, Concord, Lee County, Little Rock, Nettleton, Poyen, Pulaski County, Texarkana, Westside and Fort Smith. Several of these districts get permits years ago but don't use them, including Little Rock and Pulaski County, to arm staff members. Vote 4-1.
Those with permits now have essentially been grandfathered for two years. The Board voted unanimously to accept no more applications for licensure of staff members to carry guns. Thus, if there is a building desire for armed school staff members, legislative action WILL be required.
Jack Acre of Little Rock led the opposition to approving permits for school staff members. He was joined by Joey Smith of Searcy in the 2-2 votes where Chairman Sims joined them. The three votes for allowing guns were Curtis, Jess Odom of Searcy and Davis Orsburn of Cotter. Sheriff James Shourd of Searcy was absent.