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Controversial bill to arm teachers moves forward in Alabama

By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A divided House committee on Thursday approved a proposal that would allow some teachers to carry or access firearms in schools.

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee voted 5-4 for the bill, putting it in line for a possible floor vote next week. The measure would allow school systems, in consultation with law enforcement, to designate employees who could carry or access handguns and rifles or other weapons.

Republican Rep. Will Ainsworth, the bill sponsor, said many schools can’t afford to have paid law enforcement officers on campus, but do have military veterans on staff, or other individuals, who could fill the security role.

“To me it’s common sense,” Ainsworth said.

Opponents argued arming teachers is the wrong approach to improve school safety.

Rep. Mary Moore, a Democrat from Birmingham, said the state should provide schools with funding to hire police officers.

Republican Rep. Harry Shiver, a former high school coach and teacher, said teachers have other things to worry about.

“We do not need to have a lay teacher in a school that got a firearm,” Shiver said. He said school staff are mostly female.

“I want to protect our ladies,” Shiver said.

Under the bill, the public and parents would not know which teachers carry guns. Ainsworth said that is for security reasons.

Multiple bills were introduced after the Feb. 14 shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people. Gun control proposals, such as raising the required age to purchase an AR-15 assault-style rifle or similar weapon, have not gotten committee action in the GOP-dominated Alabama Legislature.

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