TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools board members didn't know it was legal for someone with a concealed pistol license to openly carry a loaded firearm into a Michigan school until this year.
The issue hadn't come up until Interlochen resident and Grand Traverse County Commission candidate Andy Marek attended a TCAPS board meeting in January with a gun holstered on his hip. His public comment had nothing to do with guns, but school board members noticed his firearm.
Marek said he brought his gun with him into the Tompkins Boardman Administration Center for protection. The administration center is where monthly school board meetings are held but does not have any classrooms used for student instruction.
Marek stands by his legal right to open carry.
"Most shootings happen in schools. I need to be able to defend myself and the life of people around me, and I'd feel really bad if something happened and I didn't have my tool with me to defend myself or others," Marek said.
Board president Kelly Hall said Marek's appearance raised concerns among board members. They asked school administrators to look into state law and school policy. Administrators found that Marek was acting legally at the meeting, and it would also be legal for him to open carry inside a school.
Traverse City Police Capt. Mike Ayling said the law is nothing new. It is illegal for someone with a CPL to carry a concealed firearm on a school's campus, but there's nothing in state law that says they cannot carry it openly.
TCAPS Superintendent Stephen Cousins sent an email to parents Friday afternoon updating them on the law.
"We respect the people's right to carry weapons, when properly permitted, but we ask that they consider the anxiety that carrying a weapon may cause a young child when deciding whether to open carry a weapon on school grounds," the letter said.