USA-GUNS/-5

California's already tough gun restrictions are going to get a little bit tougher.

George Frey / Reuters

So far 13 people have signed up and been approved to carry concealed weapons on Kern High School District campuses under a policy trustees adopted in June, according to applications reviewed by The Californian.

They include a stay-at-home mom, a dispatcher for the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, a doctor, an analyst for an oil company, an insurance agent and five people who attend church services at KHSD campuses on the weekends.

The Californian agreed not to publish the names of these permit holders.

People on both sides of the issue of whether the policy was appropriate argued their cases at KHSD board meetings in the months leading up to its adoption. Some argued more guns created unsafe spaces; others said no guns left students vulnerable to mass shootings.

The June policy only extended the privilege to general members of the public. The KHSD board expanded it to cover district officials Thursday.

At least three of those who've received permission to carry said they attend church services at Frontier High School, presumably at Sovereign Grace Church, where outgoing Trustee Chad Vegas, who also holds a CCW permit, serves as pastor.

Allowing church attendees to carry concealed firearms was chief among Vegas’ arguments for voting for the policy. He has not applied to carry his concealed firearm on district property.

Among Vegas' churchgoers is a 31-year-old Kern County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher. He started carrying a gun about four years ago. He said there wasn’t a specific event that spurred his decision - just a desire for personal safety.

He does think, however, that churchgoers like him are greater targets for violence.

“It’s true of any religion," he said. "There are a lot of targets out there and it’s already occurred all over the country. All kinds of religious services have been targets of hate and anger."

It would be easy for CCW holders to ignore the district’s policy, forego the required $1 million insurance policy and carry a gun without notifying the district — after all, the firearm should remain concealed.

But complying is easy, said the dispatcher.

“There’s no need to break the law. It only cost me $35 more a year to up my current policy to $1 million,” he said.

Others had more pointed reasons for getting a CCW permit and district permission to carry, like a 43-year-old homemaker and her husband, whose child attends Frontier High School.

The couple saw their elderly neighbor was being abused by her stepson a few years ago, so they broke it up and called the police.

The stepson went to jail, but was released early and soon after began threatening the stay-at-home mom’s life.

“I carry my gun on my person everywhere I go now, unless it’s prohibited by law,” she said. “I’ve got this man out there and chances are, it’s been five years, but I don’t know that he won’t do anything.”

And like lots of other gun-owning Americans, she says the attention is unfairly placed on those abiding by the law instead of on criminals.

“People need to stop worrying about law-abiding citizens and start worrying about gang members and felons who have been released,” she said.

Others, like a 69-year-old vendor who sharpens knives and repairs sewing machines for the district, just want to maintain their own safety while traveling around town.

“I’ve got all my equipment and tools in my van, thousands of dollars in equipment,” he said in a gruff drawl.

His work takes him all around Bakersfield, including into some high-crime neighborhoods.

“South Chester beyond the tracks, when I go to the barbershops, I’ve got people walking around eyeballing me. It’s just protection.”

So it’s a matter of convenience to carry his gun with him along his route, including when he travels to high school campuses, even though he doubts he’ll ever have to use it there.

“I hope I never have to use it,” he said.

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