By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) vetoed a bill that would have authorized the Sheriff of Franklin County to authorize and train a force of volunteers to defend Franklin County Schools against an armed intruder scenario like what happened at Shady Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut in December, where 26 first graders and unarmed teachers were gunned down by a lone madman.
The bill’s sponsor, Alabama State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow (D) from Red Bay talked with ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ following the Governor’s announcement. Rep. Morrow said that his bill, House Bill 116, applied only to Franklin County and would have allowed trained teachers and education employees to bring their weapon to school in case the need arose to defend the school and the children against an armed attacker. Morrow said that his county is very rural and many of the schools there are often more than 20 minutes away from the nearest police station or sheriff’s office.
Morrow told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that many of his county’s schools already have reserve Franklin County deputy sheriff’s working in the Franklin County Schools. “When they go home they strap on a gun and ride the roads,” as Reserve Deputy Sheriffs, but Alabama law currently prohibits them from carrying that gun with them to work to protect themselves or the children.
Bentley wrote in his veto letter, “While I am confident that the sheriff or chief of police is perfectly able to supervise the volunteer force, I believe that the Legislature should provide more specific and more extensive training requirements.”
Specifically the bill says, “A volunteer emergency security force member shall be classified as a reserve sheriff of reserve police officer and shall serve in that position at the pleasure of the sheriff or chief of police.” “As a member of an emergency security force, a volunteer shall receive any training deemed necessary by the sheriff or the chief of police and, when fulfilling his or her duties as a member of the emergency security force, shall be under the supervision and direction of the sheriff or chief of police.”
Morrow said that it is his understanding that Bentley will support only a school security bill that puts full time security guards in the schools. Morrow told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that Reserve Deputy Sheriffs have more training than security guards do. Morrow said that his bill has the support of the National Riflemen’s Association (NRA). Rep. Morrow believes that he has enough votes to override Bentley’s veto.
While lawmakers continue to debate over the details about whether arming teachers or hiring school security guards or assigning school resource officers is the best plan the children of Franklin County…..like most of the schoolchildren of Alabama remain unprotected against the Adam Lanzas of this world.
“Certainly, Governor Bentley believes in protecting our children and teachers. The concern with this bill is that it does not provide adequate training guidelines for the people who would be entrusted with such an important responsibility.
“Without more guidelines in the bill, we would be entrusting the life of a child to someone whose qualifications are currently unclear. There needs to be greater specifics on the training for these people who would be protecting our children,” said Jeremy King, Director of Communications for the Office of Governor Robert Bentley.
On Thursday, Representative Morrow pledged to bring back another bill with the governor’s proposed changes.