Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, said he will try again to pass a bill to let teachers in Franklin County train as reserve law enforcement officers in the wake of school shootings in other communities.
Although we applaud a member of the local legislative delegation for trying to develop a solution to the problem of school security, we continue to have grave doubts about arming teachers.
State Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, has reason to worry about schools in Franklin County. Like many areas of Alabama, schools in his county are scattered across remote areas that can be 20 to 30 minutes away from the nearest law enforcement officer. An armed intruder can inflict a lot of harm in that amount of time.
Sandy Hook Elementary School, site of the nation’s latest mass school shooting, is only 2.3 miles and six minutes from the Police Department in Newtown, Conn. But even with that close proximity to police protection, the Dec. 14, 2012, shootings there left 27 dead, including 20 first-graders.
There is no way to know whether having an armed member of the school staff present would have made any difference. We can imagine scenarios in which armed staff would have lessened the carnage, made it worse or made no difference at all.
Morrow wants to pass a bill that will allow teachers and community members to volunteer to be trained as reserve officers for Franklin County schools. They would, in effect, become reserve deputies.
His bill for Franklin County passed the Legislature, but Gov. Robert Bentley vetoed it. Morrow also introduced a similar statewide bill that has not been passed out of a House committee.
Spencer Collier, director of the state Department of Homeland Security, said the Bentley administration only supports certified law enforcement officers in schools. “It is more than teaching someone to shoot at a shooting range,” he said. “We’re talking about giving individuals the state-sanctioned authority to take someone’s life.”
We share in the administration’s concerns and worry that an inadequately trained teacher or volunteer could make matters worse, leading to even more deaths.
Morrow said he is reintroducing his bill to address some of Bentley’s concerns. He and Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, will meet with school officials, the sheriff and police chiefs of Franklin County at 11 a.m. Monday to discuss his proposed bill and gain their input.
While the matter of arming teachers does, indeed, call for more debate, political leaders also need to explore ways to close loopholes in gun laws and eliminate weapons that can shoot 30 and more rounds without reloading.