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Kentucky bill would allow schools to arm teachers, staff with guns

Updated: Feb. 22, 2018 at 5:31 PM EST
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Connie Coartney, Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. (Source: WAVE...
Connie Coartney, Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Teacher-parent groups are sounding off about President Trump's suggestion to arm teachers in schools by way of concealed carry.

On Thursday, President Trump proposed bonuses for teachers who carry guns in the classroom.

A Kentucky lawmaker has proposed a bill putting more guns in Kentucky schools and it's drawing controversy.

The state senator who sponsored it, a Republican from Bourbon County, said people should not overreact because the bill is still a work in progress.

Senator Steve West filed Senate Bill 103 the same day of the deadly Marshall County High School shooting. The bill is also sponsored by Senator Stephen Meredith (R, District 5) and Senator Ralph Alvaro (R, District 28).

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As written, the bill allows public school boards and private schools to add designated persons to carry firearms, possibly a teacher or staff member to be school marshals. That's one marshal per 400 students, and weapons would be stored in a lockbox, West said.

The bill also allows for appointed school marshals to be reimbursed for the purchase, ammunition and associated costs of carrying a gun.

Senator West said he supports the idea of School Resource Officers like the SROs that Jefferson County Public Schools and law enforcement agencies have put into place in Jefferson and other counties.

West said part of the problem is that many Kentucky school districts don't have the money for SROs.

"The purpose of this bill is to help those districts who can't afford an SRO," Senator West said.

Connie Coartney, the leader of the Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, is a mother of four and an educator. She joined parents and teachers rallying against the idea of putting guns in schools in downtown Louisville on Wednesday night.

"I send my kids to school every day and the thought of introducing more guns in a classroom educational system just doesn't make any sense to me," Coartney said.

Moms Demand Action Against for Gun Sense in America said teachers already have enough to deal with in the classroom, and that the bill does not offer significant training for marshals other than a basic concealed carry permit, which they say is not enough.

"Every teacher I have spoken with is like, 'I went to college to teach kids, not to carry a weapon in order to shoot someone'," Coartney said. "I think putting the onus on our teachers is short sighted."

The Jefferson County Teachers' Association and the Kentucky Educators' Association are both opposed to the bill.

JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said safety and security is his top priority, but he does not like the idea of arming teachers.

"I would not be in support of that," Pollio said on Thursday.

West said ex-military and former officers are the best option for marshals when possible.

Senator West said he has more proposed changes coming, not just concealed carry training as the bill currently calls for.

"I want whoever these people are to have intense training," West said. "I've already got a list of significant changes I intend to make to my own bill."

The senator said he plans to propose more changes starting next week. West said he wants to make SB 103 more of a school security bill, with a focus on security measures like enforcing a universal plan for school entry points.

Critics said President Trump and state lawmakers should be talking about access to assault weapons and mental illness.

West said mental health issues should be discussed by lawmakers, but he does not think gun control is the problem.

The entire text of SB 103 is below.

Copyright 2018 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.