Park County School District #6 in Cody, Wyoming, approved a policy in April that allows employees to carry concealed guns at school if they have at least 24 hours of initial firearms training and meet annual recertification requirements. The district serves eight schools with “about 2,000” students, grades K-12, according to the district website.
The policy proposal passed by a 4-2 vote. This was the third reading of the policy that had been in the works since last year and had been discussed and debated for at least six months.
The policy does not allow all concealed carry permit holders to bring weapons on school grounds. With the vote, it becomes official school policy and the process to receive applications, vet, train and select district personnel to concealed carry in the schools can begin, according to The Cody Enterprise, the town’s local newspaper.
Three major amendments took place since the second reading in March. The first was to raise the minimum amount of recurring training required from 12 to 18 hours after receiving a recommendation from a Park County sheriff to add more recurring training. This is in addition to the 24 hours of initial training required.
The second change was to provide more specifics about the training, including some of those used by federal law enforcement, such as training with the non-dominant hand and working with barriers. The final change was to add a comprehensive review of the policy after two years.
The policy and regulations allow employees under contract with the school district, such as teachers and administrators – along with classified employees at the rural schools with board discretion – to carry a concealable firearm on school property if they can pass background checks, a psychological suitability exam, and the 24 hours of initial training, among other steps.
While numerous public discussions have been held, at this meeting, five townspeople spoke in favor of the policy and four against, including a senior student. In February, a local group, Wyoming Rising-Northwest, spearheaded the creation of a petition with 368 signatures in opposition to the policy. In March, trustees accepted a petition in favor of the policy carrying the signatures of 661 Cody residents. A scientific school district survey showed the community heavily in favor of the policy, according to The Cody Enterprise.
Proponents say guns are necessary because it can take too long for police or sheriff’s deputies to respond, especially in rural areas. Opponents are worried that perceived threats could do more harm than good, and they believe there are better alternatives that are not being explored.
This is the same school district that received national attention when, in January 2017, United States Education Secretary Betsy Devos said during her confirmation hearing that elementary school teachers in Wapiti, a small community with a rural school about a half hour drive from Cody, should be armed to defend themselves against grizzly bears that might wander into the area. Devos’ family owns land in the area.
Park County School District #6 is the second district to approve a gun policy in the state. The Wyoming legislature in 2017 passed a bill that allows school districts to decide whether to allow teachers and other employees to carry concealed weapons.
Wyoming has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the United States. Cody is home to one of the largest gun museums in the U.S. and is located near Yellowstone National Park in the northwest corner of the state.