In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, school officials and state lawmakers in Franklin County, Alabama, issued a request to the governor: “Please allow us to decide how best to secure our schools and protect our children.”
That request came in the form of House Bill 116, a measure that would allow Franklin County to arm teachers and staff provided they (a) wanted to volunteer for the program and (b) received training under the direction of the local sheriff. HB 116 reads:
A volunteer emergency security force member shall be classified as a reserve sheriff of reserve police officer and shall serve in that position at the pleasure of the sheriff or chief of police.
As a member of an emergency security force, a volunteer shall receive any training deemed necessary by the sheriff or the chief of police and, when fulfilling his or her duties as a member of the emergency security force, shall be under the supervision and direction of the sheriff or chief of police.
It seemed like a common sense measure, especially because as Franklin County School Superintendent Gary Williams expressed in a letter to the bill’s sponsor Rep. Johnny Mack Marrow (D-Red Bay) the seven public schools in the rural county are a minimum 20 to 30 minutes away from first responders — were a deranged gunman to enter one of the schools, it would be quite some time before police could arrive on the scene and engage the shooter.
“The citizens of Franklin County are demanding that we improve our safety and emergency plans after the tragic events that took place in Connecticut,” said Williams in his letter.
Both the state’s House and Senate agreed with Williams and the bill was approved with the help of a republican supermajority.
However, when it landed on Gov. Robert Bentley’s desk in April, he vetoed the bill, arguing that it didn’t contain enough training guidelines for the volunteers and stressed a desire to hire student resource officers (SROs), i.e. sworn law enforcement personnel.
“While I am confident that the sheriff or chief of police is perfectly able to supervise the volunteer force, I believe that the Legislature should provide more specific and more extensive training requirements,” Bentley wrote in his letter.
Morrow rejected the governor’s criticism. He pointed out in an interview with The Alabama Political Reporter that schools do not always have the funding to hire SROs and that many of his county’s schools already have reserve Franklin County deputy sheriffs working on school premises (some are teachers, administrators, etc.).
“When they go home they strap on a gun and ride the roads,” as Reserve Deputy Sheriffs, but Alabama law currently prohibits them from carrying that gun with them to work to protect themselves or the children.
Well, in the end, after the governor vetoed a second version of the bill, the whole ordeal was put to rest. On Monday, and perhaps to the chagrin of the governor, the state legislature voted to override his veto and now the bill will become law without the governor’s signature.
“When [children] hear about Sandy Hook and Dale County, they visualize the same thing happening in Franklin County. This will put a degree of safety. This will give assurance in their minds that someone is protecting them,” Morrow told MyFoxAL.
What are your thoughts? Is supervised training at the discretion of a local sheriff enough to arm teachers and staff? Or should more explicit and ‘professional’ training (SRO-type stuff) be required if a school wants teachers and staff to carry on campus?
In short, do you agree or disagree with Gov. Bentley’s objections?