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Morrow’s Efforts to Improve School Security in Franklin County Stalled in Senate

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Friday, December 14, 2012, a 19 year old with no friends, no assistance, no formal military or police training, and few if any skills at anything other than first person shooter video games, shot his way through a locked glass door in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut at 9:35 am.  The shots were heard.  Principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, and lead teacher Natalie Hammond rushed to the sound of the gunfire called out “Shooter! Stay put!” and all three were shot (Hochsprung and Sherlach fatally).  The whole incident was broadcast over the school loudspeaker alerting everyone of the clear and present danger.  The shooter then went from classroom to classroom, fired 154 rounds, and killed 4 more adults and 20 first graders.  Victims were shot multiple times (one 6 year old was hit with 11 rounds) and the shooter reloaded frequently.

The shooter stopped and fled to a classroom between 9:46 am and 9:49 am when realizing that two police officers had entered the building and had spotted him. The lone shooter then fatally shot himself in the head with a Glock 10mm handgun.

Police got the first call at 9:35, the Connecticut state police were called at 9:41, Newtown police dispatch first requested officers on the scene at 9:35 am, the Newtown police were on the scene and in the building in less than ten minutes.  Police rushed local police dog and police tactical units, a bomb squad, and a state police helicopter to the scene.  The police locked down the school and began evacuating the survivors room by room, escorting groups of students and adults away from the school.  No shots were fired by the authorities.  The shooter committed suicide within fifteen minutes of the first 911 call being received.  According to court documents, all the killings occurred in that first five minutes.

Unlike many Alabama schools, Shady Hook had video cameras and locking doors……neither really slowed the shooter down at all.  For first responders, response time is everything and for much of Alabama responding to a shooter situation as rapidly as Newtown did is not possible and the Newtown PD’s efforts still were not fast enough for 26 people.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) has urged more first responders to take active shooter training.  In rural places like Franklin County for first responders to be on the scene and in a firefight within five minutes is unlikely if not utterly impossible given the distances involved and the size of the local sheriff’s department.  Many in the law enforcement community believe that armed security already in the building is the best way of handling the active school shooter scenario.

Alabama State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow (D) from Red Bay introduced a bill, House Bill 116, (which applies only to Franklin County), which 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.  Governor Robert Bentley vetoed Morrow’s bill after it had passed the legislature.

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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.”

Rep. Morrow introduced a new bill, H.B. 404, to address the Governor’s concerns and specify the level of training that the force would have.  Morrow told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that the governor is still opposing his new bill which has passed the House and is now in the Senate.
Morrow said that members of the emergency security force would be under the supervision and direction of the sheriff or chief of police and would have all the training of reserve deputy sheriff plus whatever additional training the sheriff mandates and would serve at the discretion of the sheriff.  If they don’t meet his standards they lose their membership on the team and their ability to have a weapon on school grounds.

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 but if the Senate does not address the bill quickly then the Governor can kill it by pocket veto.

Brandon Moseley
Written By

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with over nine years at Alabama Political Reporter. During that time he has written 8,297 articles for APR. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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