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Alabama House Committee to vote Thursday on bills allowing for armed teachers

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The first vote on two proposals allowing for armed teachers in Alabama will come at the State House Thursday.

Wednesday, the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held a public hearing for the two bills filed by Rep. Allan Farley and Rep. Will Ainsworth.

Both would allow teachers to volunteer to carry firearms with proper training and vetting.

The difference in the bills is in the way the programs are set up.

Educators packed the committee room to speak out on both sides of the issue.

“Teachers are trained to teach, not to carry firearms,” said Limestone County Superintendent, Dr. Tom Sisk.

Sisk told the committee he doesn't want the authority to create a workforce, where teachers could volunteer and carry firearms.

“As a superintendent, I’m opposed to any bill to arm a teacher,” said Sisk. “Heck, I make them mad on a regular basis- think I want to give them a gun?”

Other educators say this could be a new resource to protect their campuses, including Dekablb County Superintendent Jason Barnett.

“(It) could help in a last line of defense, help secure out campuses,” said Barnett.

Committee chairman, Represenative Allan Treadway, who spent his career in law enforcement, sees a need.

“If we have a threat that enters a school, the best way to neutralize that threat is someone that’s there, that’s proper y trained to stop it,” said Treadway. “How we get there is the question.”

Ainsworth says armed teachers could be especially beneficial in rural areas.

“In rural Alabama, when you look at funding for school resource officer, we have a huge deficit,” said Ainsworth. “There’s a lot of schools that don’t have resource officers in Alabama. We think it’s up around maybe of 500 schools in the state that don’t have school resource officers.”

Now, Ainsworth says he and Farley are working together to see if their bills can be combined.

Farley reiterated throughout the meeting that his bill does not mandate any school system to arm teachers or other personnel, it simply allows superintendents the option to create this task force with their local law enforcement.

“This does not tell a school what you have to do,” said Farley. “This gives a school an option. If you don’t have the resources, if nothing else is working and you’re still concerned, you might look at this option, contact your sheriff or your police chief.”

If the committee approves the measure, it moves to the House. If it receives approval there, it could face an uphill battle in the Senate.

The challenge will be timing. Lawmakers expect to end this year’s legislative session by the end of the month.

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