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Poll shows Republican support for training, arming teachers

A new poll shows Republican voters in Alabama favor allowing properly-trained teachers and school administrators to voluntarily carry firearms on school grounds.

According to the survey, 76 percent of likely Republican voters would support allowing properly trained education workers to carry firearms while 21 percent would oppose such a policy. The poll, conducted by McLaughlin and Associates, surveyed 600 likely Republican voters from February 26 to March 1 and has a margin of error of +/-4 percent.

While the survey only polled Republican voters, that’s the base GOP politicians who control state government tend pay most attention to, particularly in an election year.

The new numbers come as several gun and school safety proposals are under consideration in the Alabama Legislature. On Tuesday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced the creation of a special council to study the proposals and report recommendations by April 30, after the legislative session will have concluded.

That seemed to slow the momentum for the legislation in the State House. But, at least one bill sponsor, Rep. Will Ainsworth of Guntersville, is pressing forward with his bill to allow education employees to carry firearms.

Ainsworth’s bill, HB435, would allow teachers and administrators who complete annual Alabama Peace Officers’ Safety and Training certification to carry firearms on campus.

“I have three children who sit in vulnerable public school classrooms every day, so I am proud to join the two thirds of Alabamians who understand that the only way to stop a school shooter is by shooting back,” Ainsworth said “We’ve got to allow our teachers a better way to defend their classrooms with something more lethal than a ruler and a No. 2 pencil.”

Another proposal that has been gaining interest among lawmakers is Rep. Allen Farley’s bill to allow school district to deputize and arm “sky marshal” like teams to anonymously protect school grounds. The bill, HB449, is modeled off a local Franklin County law local officials say has been effective in deterring threats.

Farley said he, too, plans to press ahead to try an pass his bill during this legislative session.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon invited all the Republican sponsors of gun and school safety legislation to a meeting in his office late Wednesday afternoon to discuss the various proposals. Farley told WSFA that members want to more “full speed ahead” in passing legislation to address school safety before the session adjourns.

Ivey’s creation of a council to study the measures should not be seen as discouraging Ainsworth, Farley or other lawmakers from advancing their proposals, spokesman Daniel Sparkman said. She will defer to the legislature to work its process and review any legislation that passes with legal counsel before making a decision on whether or not sign it into law, he said. Also, the council will meet soon and may well make recommendations before the session concludes, the Governor’s Office said.

Florida lawmakers on Wednesday gave final passage to a legislative package that would place new restrictions on semi-automatic rifle sales and allow some school personnel to carry firearms. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign the legislation.

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