The Fremont County District 1 School Board voted 4-2 on July 23 to allow approved staff members to conceal carry firearms in schools, making Lander the fourth district in Wyoming to approve such a policy.
In the weeks leading up to the vote, the majority of written and in-person public comments to the School Board opposed arming school staff. But Chairman Brett Berg said those comments didn't include community members who voiced their support privately.
"I can't even begin to tell you how many [people] were willing to tell me personally that they were in favor of it but weren't willing to say it publicly," Berg said.
The School Board began studying the issue after the Wyoming State Legislature passed a law allowing districts to decide whether to arm staff in 2017. Berg said he was on the fence initially, but an endorsement of the policy from local law enforcement convinced him to support it.
Alison Frost, whose two children attend public schools in Lander, is among those who feel that school security should be left to professionals.
"My worry is that our schools could be less safe because there are more guns in the school in the hands of civilian volunteers," Frost said. "I'd rather see the guns in our schools, which are already there, carried by school resource officers and police officers."
Tim Hudson is the father of a fifth grader in the district and a gun owner himself. He said he would rather see the School Board invest in building security technology and mental healthcare for students to prevent a shooting.
"Ultimately the next step for many in the community is looking at the 2020 [school board] election and replacing the majority on the board," Hudson said. "They were so unresponsive to the citizenry. We'll start a push to change that majority with the notion of repealing the policy."
Staff members who want to carry will be subject to a lengthy vetting process that includes training with law enforcement, mental health screenings and random drug and alcohol testing. School Board Chairman Berg said it's likely that no one will earn approval within the 2019-2020 school year.
"I'm not excited about this, I'm not happy about it. This is not a win for me as a board member," Berg said. "I guess I'm disappointed that we've gotten to this point as a society, but the reality is, we're here."