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School safety, guns bills face tight deadline in Alabama

By MALLORY MOENCH, Associated Press

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Multiple school safety and gun control bills in the Alabama legislature are stalled and face a tight deadline before the end of the legislative session.

Lawmakers have introduced six bills since the Parkland, Florida, school massacre ranging from arming teachers to banning the sale of assault weapons.

Legislators are already more than halfway through the session. After the general fund budget passes, the session may wrap up as soon as the end of March for election campaigning, leaving little time to vote on recently proposed bills.

“My feeling is that it’s so late in the session that it’s going to be hard to get them passed,” said Sen. Cam Ward, a Republican who’s chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ward said that the bill to ban assault weapons by Democrat Rep. Mary Moore has “zero chance” and the proposal by Republican Rep. Will Ainsworth to arm teachers “isn’t going to go anywhere.”

Ward said the bill with the best chance was Republican Rep. Allen Farley’s proposal to train an armed volunteer security force. It replicates a local law passed in Franklin County in north Alabama five years ago, although it’s not clear whether it’s being implemented because superintendents, police and the district’s representative declined to confirm any numbers. Farley said that even though the days are running short, there is still time to pass a bill.

Rep. Juandalynn Givan, a Democrat who introduced a bill to raise the age limit on assault weapon sales, and Democrat Rep. Mary Moore, who proposed banning sales, said they would keep pushing even if their bills don’t pass this year.

“You’ve got to be outraged at babies losing their lives,” Moore said. “One day we’re going to minimize it. We’re supposed to be the greatest country on Earth, and we ought to be able to figure this out.”

Before she introduced the bill Thursday, Moore asked House members to move it forward for dialogue, which she said hasn’t happened in the past.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said sponsors of bills on school safety and guns would meet informally next week to discuss their intents and find the best solution. Farley said he hopes for compromise.

“We could combine two or three of them to get a bill that’s the best product to put through the legislative process,” Farley said. “This cannot get into the politics of it. A lot of people want to run for re-election and say we’re going to stop this and outlaw this and ban this. What’s their primary concern? I’m hoping it’s the safety of the students.”

After the Parkland shooting, Rep. Gerald Allen, a Republican, dropped his bill to eliminate the requirement to get a permit for a concealed carry handgun. He said “it isn’t the right time.”

The House public safety committee handling gun bills also faces uncertainty after the daughter of chairman Rep. Allen Treadaway was killed in a car accident Sunday. Vice-chairman Farley said he doesn’t know whether he will assume leadership or the House speaker will appoint a new chairman.

McCutcheon and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey have cautioned against hasty solutions.

“School safety is very important, but at the same time you don’t want to make knee-jerk decisions and just do something; it needs to be the right thing,” Ivey said. “It may not be a one-size-fits-all solution. It may be suggesting a proposal and letting the superintendents decide what fits them best.”

Ivey said she has not read any of the gun legislation.

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