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Alabama bill proposes to arm teachers after Florida shooting

By MALLORY MOENCH, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama lawmaker on Tuesday proposed legislation that would allow the state’s teachers to carry guns in school following a deadly school shooting in Florida last week.

Rep. Will Ainsworth, a Republican from Guntersville, said parents, coaches and teachers in his district requested the safety measure after 17 people were fatally shot last week at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Ainsworth’s proposal would allow teachers to carry concealed pistols in school if they undergo 40 hours of law enforcement training with the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission and submit to a mental health evaluation. Carrying a weapon would be voluntary.

Ainsworth, who is running for Alabama lieutenant governor, also proposed more state funding for school resource officers, who are police assigned as school security guards. But he pointed out that the officer at the Florida school that was targeted last week didn’t have time to reach the suspect whose attack lasted mere minutes.

“If a gunman gets into a school, what do we do? Our students do not need to be sitting ducks. Our teachers do not need to be defending themselves with a no. 2 pencil,” Ainsworth said at a news conference Tuesday morning at Guntersville Elementary School, where his three children attended. He was joined by law enforcement and school officials.

Ainsworth told The Associated Press that the two coaches who died protecting students at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida could have had a chance of taking down the shooter if they had been armed and trained.

Another Alabama representative, Democrat Christopher England from Tuscaloosa, told AP the bill was a terrible remedy, not a solution.

“We need to craft legislation that ensures people who don’t need to access guns don’t have them while not infringing upon people’s Second Amendment rights,” England said. “People are quick to say that they (shooters) were suffering from mental illness or anguish, but you never see any proposal to help with this problem. Our solution is to give a gun and say you’re on your own.”

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, a former school teacher, said there could be more effective ways to address school shooting threats.
“In my personal opinion, teachers have got their hands full being teachers and instructors. I think there’s some other way to provide protection,” Ivey said Tuesday.

The nation’s two largest teachers’ organizations, The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, have opposed arming teachers in school. Anne Leader, a former educator and a volunteer with the Alabama chapter of advocacy organization Moms Demand Action, spoke out against the bill.

“We know that when more guns are around, the likelihood of unintentional shooting goes up,” Leader told Yahoo Lifestyle . “Low-grade incidents could escalate to a shooting. Things could get ugly. The psychological toll that it would take on teachers by putting this responsibility on them would be too much.”

Teachers in one north Alabama county can already arm themselves while at school after a bill twice vetoed by the governor was made into law in 2013. Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said the law was necessary because rural county schools couldn’t afford security guards and the emergency response time could be up to 30 minutes.

Thirty-three lawmakers in the 105-member House of Representatives signed on as co-sponsors on Ainsworth’s bill.

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