AL legislators discuss school safety in wake of FL massacre

Speaker McCutcheon said his major focuses for 2019 include improving state infrastructure,...
Speaker McCutcheon said his major focuses for 2019 include improving state infrastructure, school safety, ethics law and dealing with the state's budgets. (Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)
Updated: Feb. 15, 2018 at 6:13 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon and legislators held a news conference Thursday to discuss school safety and security issues.

The news conference was in response to a massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Wednesday that left 17 dead and multiple others injured.

McCutcheon said schools should be a place where children should not worry have to worry about violence.

"Schools are one of the places our children should feel safe," he said.

The House speaker was joined by House Education Policy Committee Chair Terri Collins and State Rep. Alan Baker, among others.

Collins served as chair of the Legislature's Emergency Task Force on School Safety and Security while Baker, a retired educator, has sponsored and passed several bills related to school safety issues.

Collins added that the state took action several years ago to have measures in place should something like the Florida high school shooting happen.

Rep. Baker made mention of the several bills the state passed that now ensure Alabama schools would be prepared for any crisis situation. He mentioned the Secure the Perimeter, School Bus Trespassing, and Electronic School Notification bills in particular.

The Secure the Perimeter bill requires all Alabama schools to have a hard lockdown drill within the first six weeks of each semester.

The goal that Collins and Baker wanted to get across is that Alabama students, teachers and staff would be prepared in the event of any school crisis.

McCutcheon and the representatives responded to questions regarding teachers possibly having the ability to arm themselves, as well as overall gun control.

Collins was asked about the recent bill representatives plan to introduce that would allow teachers to have a firearm and said they have already taken the best measures to ensure safety.

"We've looked at it from every perspective," she said. "We've had teachers on there, we had principals, we had superintendents, we had law enforcement, department of education."

Collins also urged her fellow lawmakers not to approach the Florida shooting from a reactionary measure, rather from a well-rounded one.

"Really at the end of the day, we can just be an advocate for further scrutiny on the application process of buying a gun," said McCutcheon.

McCutcheon also said the Alabama legislature is concerned about the way Alabama gun salesmen approach the process of selling firearms and who they are selling the firearms to.

Rep. Lee added the topic of gun control isn't just a party issue, it's a national one.

"This is not a Democrat or Republican situation. This is an Alabama problem. This is a United States problem across our nation," said Lee.

McCutcheon was asked his thoughts on if potentially raising the age limit to be able to purchase a weapon like an AR-15, the weapon used by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz in the Florida high school shooting, could make a difference.

"I think we need to continue to look at the federal regulations because that will dictate to the states exactly the sale of firearms as to which direction we can go in," said McCutcheon. "I would encourage the discussion of those things."

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