MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Following the events two weeks ago in Newtown, Connecticut, an Alabama state representative wants to arm administrators at every school.
Kerry Rich of Albertville said it is still early in the process and there is still a lot to review, but the bill would allow superintendents to recommend certain principals and teachers to have guns at school, and boards of education would approve or deny the appointments.
“We need to have someone that is armed and has a weapon available to them in case any of these incidents were to ever happen in any of our schools,” Rich said.
Rich and the Alabama legislature’s Education Policy Committee will meet January 9 to discuss the proposed bill with the state policemen’s association, the state sheriff’s association, district attorneys, and educators including the Alabama state superintendent.
He was working on developing this legislation before the December 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where witnesses said principal Dawn Hochsprung confronted and tried to stop the gunman before he shot and killed her.
“If she had had a gun, she could have taken this person out and I think it would have saved a lot of lives and saved the lives of a lot of little children,” Rich said.
Representative Rich has a six-year-old granddaughter, and he said watching the reports come out of Newtown really touched his heart and he wants to use his influence in Montgomery to try and prevent it from ever happening in Alabama.
He said the current gun free zones at schools are announcements to attackers that there are no guns on campus, which makes them targets.
“They go to areas where they realize and they understand there’s not going to be any real resistance to them, for a period of time anyway for police officers to arrive and that takes time to get there and the carnage has already been done,” Rich said.
“If these people knew there were people inside the schools that had guns that could confront them, and blow them away before they’re able to harm any innocent person, I think that would make a difference.”
The school staff members would go through training like a police officer on how to use the weapon and how to respond to certain scenarios, and would also be required to renew their certification every six months.
Teachers would also be evaluated to make sure they were prepared and stable.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to arm all teachers,” Rich said. “I think that’s a bad idea.”
But some administrators and police officers would prefer not to arm any teachers.
“I had rather see some kind of funding come down to put officers [in schools] who are trained to react to different situations,” Boaz Police Chief Terry Davis said.
Davis said Rich’s proposal has merit and more should be done to increase safety, but he said he doesn’t know if anything could have been to prevent the deaths in Sandy Hook, and he isn’t sure arming school staff is the best solution.
“Some of the teachers and administrators i’ve talked to don’t want a weapon because they’re not comfortable with them,” Davis said.
Boaz City Schools superintendent Mark Isley said his two biggest concerns about arming teachers involve the training they receive and the communication they have with police.
He would also prefer to see the state allocate funding for police officers at schools instead.
Isley said his ideal response would be to have undercover police or plains-clothes officers at the school, and said one option would be to have retired officers or state troopers.
Boaz schools currently have a retired state trooper as their school resource officer.
Isley said that is cheaper than having a current officer on duty or paying overtime, as the state allows a maximum salary of $22,000 to retired officers working in that position.