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Guns in schools fight goes to Michigan Supreme Court

By Jonathan Oostling
Detroit News
December 25th, 2017

Lansing — The Michigan Supreme Court next year will hear oral arguments in two cases testing whether public school districts can ban guns — including openly carried ones — despite a state law that generally limits local firearms rules.

Lawsuits filed by gun-rights groups have broad implications for school districts around the state but challenge specific policies enacted by Ann Arbor Public Schools and the Clio Area School District, whose officials say their rules are designed to protect students and avoid disruptions.

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

The Michigan Supreme Court has not said whether it will weigh in on the merits of either case, but justices have ordered attorneys to file additional legal briefs as they consider the gun groups’ applications for appeal. A hearing is expected in 2018 but a date has not been set.

While the battle plays out in court, Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature has contemplated various changes to state law. The state Senate in November approved a bill that would allow concealed guns in schools, which supporters argue would cause fewer disruptions than openly carried weapons. The House has not yet taken up the measure, which is opposed by GOP Gov. Rick Snyder.

“The court of appeals has been operating under the absurd position that a locally elected school board is not a local unit of government, where it clearly is,” said Makowski, who called the ruling an example of “judicial activism.”

“I’m hoping the rule of law is going to prevail here.”