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House committee debated school safety bills, will vote on proposals today

Representatives tackled two school safety bills at a committee meeting on Wednesday that would allow for schools to have armed personnel on their campuses.

The two bills were different in some aspects, but were ultimately alike in their end goal of arming educators and other personnel within a school. Both bills are a response to the Parkland, Florida, shooting that left more than a dozen dead last month.

State Reps. Will Ainsworth, R-Guntersville, and Allen Farley, R-McCalla, presented their bills at the meeting.

Ainsworth’s bill, which has gained national attention, would allow schools to arm educators who have been certified by an Alabama law enforcement agency. Filed immediately after the shooting, the bill has more than two dozen co-sponsors.

While Ainsworth enjoyed the support of some school officials, other groups looked to the proposals potential liability implications. Speaking in opposition, an English teacher and school superintendent both said the bill was a poor response to a complex issue.

But Ainsworth had supporters of his own in Alabama’s schools with a superintendent from northern Alabama speaking in favor of the bill.

Representative Will Ainsworth speaks to reporters after a House Committee meeting in March 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)

The other bill debated by committee members and speakers during the public hearing would allow schools to create their own security forces under a law passed for Franklin County a few years ago.

Farley, the bill’s sponsor, changed the bill significantly at Wednesday’s committee meeting by expanding those who could be included on a school’s security team.  Originally, the bill would only allow for new

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The representative’s bill would give local school boards greater control in selecting those individuals based on their  own criteria of who is qualified.

The two bills were not voted on, but Chairman Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, said they were expected to be voted on Thursday before the House went into session.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Ainsworth said that he was in talks with Farley to combine their two bills to ensure  a speedy passage through the House.

When asked about whether he thinks his bill can pass in a session that seems to be nearing its end, Ainsworth said he was confident about approval of the bill and said House leadership haw made it a “priority” to pass the legislation.

Others in the Legislature proposed their own plans in response to the Parkland shooting.

Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham, pitched her legislation at a press conference last week that would establish first-alert laws in Alabama to prevent troubled people from obtaining firearms through a court order.

Another proposal by Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, would raise the age of purchasing an assault weapon to 21 from 18.

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While proposals like these were looked on as favorable by Republicans, a recent lawsuit by the National Rifle Association in Florida over a similar law passed may give them pause when considering this bill.

The Parkland, Florida, shooter exhibited many troubling signs before his rampage, but Florida did not have the legal framework to take his gun away.

School safety has become an issue of national concern after the Parkland shooting where a former student went into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire on his former classmates.

The White House put out their own recommendations earlier this month where they suggested arming teachers as a part of school safety. President Trump, during a meeting with Congress about guns, also suggested drafting rules to prevent disturbed people from obtaining firearms.

Stateside, Gov. Kay Ivey recently released her own plan to deal with school safety that emphasized early detection of troubled individuals and emergency plans.

The governor also established a council to study the issue on a local level.

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Sam Mattison
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