By Chad Nance
On March 3rd 2015, North Carolina State Representatives Donnie Lambeth (NC75) and Debra Conrad (NC74) put forward House Bill 139 which would make it legal for private school staff to carry firearms on campus. Rep. Lambeth is a former W-S/Forsyth County School Board member. CCD has learned, and it was confirmed by both representative’s offices, that Salem Baptist Christian School was the specific institution that requested the legislation. The school is located in NC House District 71 which is represented by Evelyn Terry and State Senate District 32 which is represented by Rev. Paul Lowe, neither of whom are sponsoring the bill.
If passed, the legislation would allow the executive head of a private school to set policy allowing an adult staffer who has a conceal carry permit to carry a weapon while on school grounds. The bill would exclusively require the school in question to be funded only by private money which would exclude any private school that accepted voucher students. Additionally, HB 139 would only apply to Forsyth County. Making the bill local, instead of state wide, was an effort to cause a smaller controversy and get the bill passed.
Requesting that guns be brought into an exclusively Christian school flies in the face of centuries of Christian tradition practice and years of social practice in America. Traditionally only deputized law enforcement officers have been allowed to carry weapons into a house of worship. Recent laws passed in states like Georgia to allow guns in churches have been met by a stone wall of clergy who do not want weapons in their churches. This kind legislation tends to be of a partisan political nature in order to excite and incite a far-right political base and never addresses a specific threat.
Neither Rep. Conrad or Rep. Lambeth’s office could point to a specific threat to Salem Baptist Christian School or any other private schools in Forsyth County. Calls to Salem Baptist’s headmaster, Martha Drake, have not been returned as of yet. (CCD will update this story with Ms. Drake’s response as soon as we are able to speak with her.) The school secretary, Carol Lambeth, told CCD that she was unaware of any specific threats, but Ms. Drake would need to speak to that definitively.
Neither Sen. Paul Lowe nor Rep. Evelyn Terry were contacted by Salem Baptist Christian School about this issue in spite of the fact that they are representing the districts where the school is located. “I have not been contacted. At some point I’d like to speak to someone about it,” Sen. Lowe said.
Rep. Terry said she was surprised by the proposed legislation and that no one from Salem Baptist Christian School had contacted her about an imminent threat or situation that would require staff to be armed up. “I’ll meet with anybody,” Rep. Terry stated, adding that she would welcome Salem Baptist to contact her.
Sarah Green, with the Winston-Salem chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America (a gun safety advocacy group) stated that, “Guns in the classroom only create the risk of accidental discharge rather than a discharge in defense of students.” There have been no major school shootings involving private or Christian schools outside of the 2006 assault on an Amish school in Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania by a mentally ill milk man. There have been several murders by students of other students at Christian colleges (including one in Elizabeth City) and one shooting at an Oakland, California Christian college , but no school related shootings that could have been prevented by anyone with a weapon. All of these shootings were committed by perpetrators from the schools themselves.
Currently HB139 is not in committee and has only been filed, but will receive a first reading today.
CCD has heard from Salem Baptist Christian School Headmaster Martha Drake this afternoon and she stated, “We have had no contact with either Representative Conrad or Lambeth regarding this bill.” She reiterated that at no time did the school say to anyone that they wanted this legislation pursued nor would they want guns on their campus in anyone’s hands. Ms. Drake said that it is possible that former County Commissioner and SBCS high school principal Mark Baker could have had his own conversations with Rep. Conrad. Ms. Drake emphasized, however, that Mr. Baker does not represent the school in any way.
Ms. Drake also confirmed that they do have voucher students at SBCS which means that they are taking government dollars and do not just operate on private tuition.
Someone isn’t telling the truth.
CCD will update this story as more information becomes available.
You can read more about this increasingly strange story HERE.