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House makes effort reach bipartisan plan on school security, gun safety

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, there was an effort among Alabama legislators to craft a bipartisan piece of legislation to deal with school security and the potential of school shootings.

Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, had a meeting in the speaker’s conference room with all of the various bills addressing school security on Thursday morning.

Referring to the shooting death of 17-year-old Courtlin Arrington at Huffman High School in Birmingham on Wednesday, McCutcheon told reporters, “Anytime our young people are armed with weapons in a school situation it is a very sad situation. I am prayerful for the family.”

McCutcheon said, “We are meeting with the sponsors of each bill and are trying to pull out the common thread in each piece of legislation.”

Reporters asked McCutcheon if they would get a bill passed before the end of this session.

The speaker said, that while he is optimistic, “The last thing we need to do is to try to pass a bill just to pass a bill. This is a first step.”

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When the session is over, “I am going to challenge all of our members to go back to their districts find out who their school resource offices are and find out from them what they are doing, and I ask those members to come back and share what they learn.”

McCutcheon said, “one size does not fit all.”

He said that the bill that is brought to the floor will be bipartisan.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked, “After the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11, this country spent a lot of money redesigning federal buildings and court houses to restrict entry and improve security. Is that one of the things that you are looking at?”

McCutcheon said that “bricks and mortar” are one of the things that the legislature is looking at. Members have told us that they go out to schools and see that security doors have been propped open.

Speaker McCutcheon said that raising the age to purchase firearms is one issue that the legislature is considering.

APR asked, “The right to keep and bear firearms is a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Is there a fear that a 19 or 20-year-old prevented from owning or possessing a firearm could sue the state over such a law, and would the state be prepared to pay the cost of defending that law?”

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McCutcheon said that is such a broad question, “I just don’t know. You would have to ask an attorney that.”

State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, said that she met with the speaker about drafting “one comprehensive piece of legislation” Thursday morning.

“We talked about what to do, and everybody seemed to be on the same page of raising the age to purchase to 21,” Givan said.

Givan has introduced a bill that would make it a crime to purchase, own, or possess an assault weapon if you are under 21.

Givan said that they also discussed school resource officers and police presence in the schools. “We don’t have the resources,” Givan said, to require that every school in the state have an SRO.

Givan said that she thought the speaker was very supportive of raising the age limit to purchase a gun. “I really favored the Florida package with the exception of arming the teachers.”

Givan said that the House Democratic Caucus is more active in encouraging gun control, “Because the children of Florida have ignited a movement. Mass shootings are happening more and more often. We have got to do something.”

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State Rep. Alan Farley, R-McCalla, who has filed legislation to arm some educators was also in the room for the conference.

Farley’s bill is based on a Franklin County bill that allows certain trained personnel at the school to be armed.

Farley said that he made a trip to Franklin County, and “talked with the superintendent, sheriff chief of police of Russell about how this was working.”

“We are not going to say how many teachers in each school have weapons,” Farley said. “The Sheriff said Franklin County is ready.”

Farley credited state Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, for the idea, which is based on the federal program that puts trained air marshals on commercial flights. “No program is perfect,” Farley said. The superintendent said that their, “school safety meeting talked for over an hour that same day.”

Rep. Farley said that he is not opposed to the governor’s plan to have a school safety task force; but “a lot of times, we have a task force in order to say we are looking into it.”

“I want law enforcement that has had active shooter training in the shoot or not shoot training,” Farley said. “The training would be in conjunction with the National Association of School Resources Officers in Hoover.”

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Farley said that he has a colleague who wants to have A-POST train educators. “A-Post does not train people. They write curriculum. I could take you or anybody else to a shooting range and after two hours, I could teach you to hit a target, but targets don’t shoot back.”

“We have some simulators that will just blow your mind,” Farley said. “A school shooting will be horror on steroids. A school will have students running around during a shooting, there will be teachers, you don’t want to shoot a janitor. When to shoot, when not to shoot is the training needed. If a SWAT team is called in to respond to an active shooter in a school and they see someone with a gun, they are going to put them down.”

“The NASRO team will decide who is to be trained and who won’t be,” Farley said. “A 40 hour A-POST class is not enough training. I want somebody who has trained. We want training, training, training.”

APR asked, “But where do we have the money to pay for all of this training?”

“I think we do,” Farley answered. “Senator Pittman, R-Montrose, is pushing forward with some legislation that will allow the rolling reserve money to be used. There is $41 million there.”

Farley said, “There are over 1,500 schools in Alabama. This has got to be shared. We will we do our part; but we are also going to be looking to the city and the county to do their part.”

Reporters asked Farley if there was time left to pass anything in the session.

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Farley said that the legislature can pass something in just five days if the “man that sits in that chair,” referring to McCutcheon, agrees with the Senate leadership. The key is agreement. If the leadership of both houses agree, they have time to pass legislation.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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