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Guns, school safety rile Lt. Governor race

By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News

It’s getting a little chippy in the race for Alabama Lt. Governor as the leading candidates respond to the gun and school safety issues.

After the tragic massacre last week that saw 17 students shot and killed at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the national political debate has been dominated by whether or not Congress should enact new gun control measures.

In Alabama, the discussion has mostly focused on whether teachers and other school personnel should be trained or armed to prevent such tragedies. Now, that policy debate is turning political, even among those who agree on gun rights issues.

State Rep. Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville), who is running for Lt. Governor, quickly pounced on the issue and sponsored legislation that would authorize teachers to carry guns in school classrooms. He is set to promote the bill today at a scheduled news conference with fellow lawmakers at his children’s school in Guntersville.

“Our children are sitting ducks in gun-free schools,” Ainsworth said in a news release announcing the legislation the day after the shooting. “I believe we must act now in order to prevent another tragedy.”

Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh (R-Montgomery), who is also running for Lt. Governor, was quick herself to call out what she saw to be politicizing the shooting, much the same way those pushing gun control do after such tragedies.

“I find it shameful when people, on both sides of the aisle, play politics with tragedies. This is an exploitation tactic used almost exclusively by liberals, hotheads, and children,” she said. “I believe we need strong, measured leadership that puts our children and teachers first – not political pandering.”

Cavanaugh is encouraging lawmakers to look at expanding statewide a local Franklin County law that allows teachers, administrators or local volunteers to be trained, deputized and armed as reserve sheriffs. Because the Franklin County law has been in place for five years, it could easily be the model for a statewide policy, she said.

The Legislature reconvenes its Regular Session on Tuesday where the gun and school safety issue is sure to be discussed, though no legislation is scheduled for debate. According to Huntsville’s WHNT, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) earlier this week urged legislators to “get their thinking caps on” for on ideas on classroom security.

The scuffle over school safety is the latest wrinkle in an intriguing race for the state’s number two job. The two candidates recently traded top tier endorsements – Cavanaugh from the Business Council of Alabama and Ainsworth from the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Recent polling released by the Twinkle campaign showed her with a significant polling advantage both with name recognition and the ballot test. Ainsworth enjoys a slight financial advantage, reporting $1 million cash on hand to Cavanaugh’s $700,000, according to 2017 year-end fundraising reports.

The primary election takes place June 5.

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