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Few Oregon schools have banned guns on campus

Since a change to law, only 13% of public school districts have closed an exemption allowing concealed handgun license holders to carry weapons onto public property.
Credit: Mike Benner, KGW staff
On May 25, 2022, Lakeridge High School students walked out of class to call for stricter gun laws.

SALEM, Ore. — Every public school district in Oregon last year was given the option to ban guns from their properties.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that most have declined to do so.

Since a change to Oregon law in September, only 13% of the state’s public school districts have opted to close an exemption that allows holders of a concealed handgun license to carry weapons onto public property where possessing a gun would otherwise be a felony.

According to an analysis by OPB, that list includes some districts in the Portland metro area — though not yet Portland Public Schools — along with more rural school systems. Among the 25 that have banned guns are districts in Klamath Falls, Myrtle Point, Tillamook, Pendleton, Tigard-Tualatin, Lake Oswego and Woodburn.

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The vast majority of the state’s 197 public school districts have, to date, taken no action.

Whether or not to prohibit guns in schools has been a contentious point in Oregon, where one estimate suggests gun ownership is more prevalent than in many other states.

The slaying of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has many Americans demanding measures to narrow access to firearms — a dynamic on display over the weekend, when independent gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson faced heated questions about her pro-gun stance from a crowd in Portland.

Gun rights groups and sympathetic politicians, meanwhile, insist having armed citizens nearby during an attack could limit damage from mass shootings. Opponents of the 2021 Oregon bill have suggested new restrictions are more apt to make public spaces less safe because CHL holders are overwhelmingly law-abiding. Mass shooters, they point out, don’t care about gun bans.

In Oregon, concealed handgun license holders must be at least 21, and are required to undergo a background check and complete a gun safety training course prior to receiving a license. In exchange for those steps, people with a CHL have long been granted leeway to bring their weapons into places where guns are otherwise prohibited.

With SB 554, lawmakers chipped away at that privilege. They banned guns in the state Capitol and the terminal of Portland International Airport, whether or not a person has a concealed handgun license. And they gave public schools, colleges and universities the option to implement their own bans.

A separate provision of state law, unimpacted by the bill, allows lawfully possessed guns on school grounds as long as they are unloaded and locked in a vehicle, regardless of a school board’s actions.

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