By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, state Rep. Will Ainsworth, R-Guntersville, introduced legislation to allow trained and certified teachers and school administrators to carry guns in school as the last line of defense against the growing school shooters problem.
“As a parent of three kids that attend this school I think I can share the same concerns that a lot of parents, teachers, educators felt across our nation when the situation that happened in Florida,” Ainsworth said. “We want to solve a problem and we are committed to doing that. Let me tell you how this started out: teachers reached out and said, Will we need your help to solve this problem.”
Ainsworth said that he also supports two things that are not in the bill.
“First is having an SRO officer in every school in the state. We have got to look at that, and we need to look at funding that from a state level.” Ainsworth said. “They also need a line item in the education budget to pay for school security; like cameras and making sure that the doors are secure.”
As Ainsworth pointed out in Florida, they had an SRO officer. “If a gunman gets in the school, what do we do? Our kids do not need to be sitting ducks,” and teachers should not be, “Defending themselves with a number two pencil.”
“Think about what happened in Florida with the two coaches,” Ainsworth said. “They rode up in a golf cart and saw what was happening. One was ex-law enforcement. Both of these guys were in charge of school security. Here is what I think resonated. All that coach could do was use his body as a shield. One of these guys was ex-military and certainly was capable of carrying a weapon.”
“The average shooting time is three minutes,” Ainsworth said. “If you look at the response time especially in rural areas it is going to be a long time before somebody can get there.”
Ainsworth said that his plan “is going to be a Common sense solution. It is voluntary. It not mandatory.” The teachers to get approved, “Are going to have to go through a 40 hours APOST certification. And not all are going to pass. These are going to be certified people and they are going to be well trained,” and all will have a mental health evaluation. They will also have annual re-certification by APOST.
Ainsworth said that the teachers and administrators would have to pay for their own guns and ammo. “We are not going to give out guns. The cost of the training will be paid for by the state. The armed teachers will be anonymous. We don’t want the kids knowing, we don’t want the parents knowing, we don’t want a potential gunman knowing.”
Ainsworth did say that the armed teachers will have some sort of mark so that law enforcement will know who they are.
Other states have already adopted similar legislation and more have introduced the legislation. In 2003, there was zero. “Our culture has changed. Video games, TV – there is a big issue with violence now,” Ainsworth said.
Michael Edmondson is the chief deputy of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department. “We are lucky enough to have SROs in all of our schools. We have teachers who are certified law enforcement officers who can not carry on school grounds.” This would be, “a great help.”
Marshall County Sheriff Scott Walls said, “Obviously we are living in a different time it is not what we grew up in. SROs are great, but there are not enough of them to provide security for a school with a thousand children.” Walls said that he would support, “Anything that will help us protect our children. It is time we change the way we do things.”
Superintendent of Marshall County Schools Cindy Wigley said, “My main concern is time. With a shooting time of three minutes we can not wait on outside agencies for help. We must be able to protect our children from within.”
State Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, said, “Let me commend Representative Ainsworth for bringing this bill and making it a priority. Our delegation has made it a priority. What we are doing now is not enough.”
State Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville, said, “I wholeheartedly support your legislation. I had a similar bill five years ago but the state was not ready.”
Rich added that in addition to this, “We need to take a look at what we do about mental health. The Sheriff will tell you that 60 percent of his inmates are there because of mental health issues. Mental health is something that we have to address.”
House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, said that he has two sons both of whom work in education. One of his sons asked him, “Why don’t we train teachers to be SRO officers?”
On this legislation, Ledbetter said, “Not only will I cosponsor it, but I will help Will move it through the House.”
The legislation was introduced on Tuesday.
Ainsworth is not seeking another term in the Alabama House of Representatives. Instead, he is running for lieutenant governor as a Republican.
Public Service Commissioner Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh and State Sen. Rusty Glover are both also running for lieutenant governor in the GOP primary.
The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Dr. Will Boyd in the general election.