Two of the leading Republican candidates in the 2018 race for governor say they support enhancing school security measures over Republican State Rep. Will Ainsworth's proposal to arm teachers as a precaution against school shootings.
In an interview with The Plainsman, Battle said the proposal could pose more risks than it solves.
"Teachers with guns, I'd rather have policemen who are trained," Battle said. "You put the teachers at liability. Where are they going to keep their gun? Are they going to wear it in a holster with them? Are they going to put in their desk? What if someone takes it out of their desk?"
Ainsworth proposed a bill last that would allow for teachers to carry guns in schools if they received standardized state training. His proposal came in the wake of a school shooting in Florida that claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers.
Ainsworth, from Guntersville, is running for lieutenant governor as a Republican and has said armed teachers could serve as a deterrent to school violence.
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Battle, the mayor of Huntsville, said he wasn't so sure.
"There are too many variables in that," Battle said. "Let's take the trained officers, and let's let them be the ones protecting our schools."
Gov. Kay Ivey, a former teacher who's running for her first full term as governor, said teachers should focus on teaching, not carrying a weapon.
"The priority has to be keeping our students and faculty safe," Ivey said last week. "So, what does that look like? I just think that our teachers have their hands full being full-time teachers, and they are trained to teach."
At a press conference Tuesday, however, Ivey said she wouldn't take an official stance on Ainsworth's bill.
Ivey said schools should find other sources of manpower to protect their schools, either volunteer guards or school resource officers if the local school leaders believe it necessary.
"We've got to protect our people first and foremost," Ivey said last week.
Ivey announced a four-pronged "Smart on Safety Initiative" at the State Capitol on Tuesday. The plan includes supporting a separate bill in the Legislature to make more funds available for school security, standardizing emergency operations plans for schools and emphasizing the "see something, say something" program to require schools to identify students who might be a danger to themselves or others.
"Shortly after the attack in Parkland, I made it clear we must resist the temptation to come up with
Ivey has said the local school districts should focus on enhancing security at their schools by reducing the number of entrances and paying special attention to surveillance and metal detectors.
Ainsworth's proposal is one of several ideas pushed by lawmakers in Montgomery after the Parkland shooting. Another bill by Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, would increase the age limit to buy AR-15-style rifles from 18 to 21.
A proposal from State Rep. Laura Hall, D-Birmingham, would ban all semi-automatic rifles.
In the first few years of Battle's tenure as Huntsville mayor, the city dealt with one of Alabama's worst mass shootings in 2010 when a professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville shot six of her colleagues, killing three and injuring three others.
"It's a bad experience to have," Battle said.
Another shooting just a few days prior at a neighboring Madison, Alabama, middle school, just west of Huntsville, left one ninth-grader dead in 2010.
"It's one of the tragic things you'll see," Battle said. "Going to some of those vigils afterward are some of the hardest things you'll do, especially in public life."
Battle said after those two shootings, both at educational institutions, the city of Huntsville worked to increase school security by hardening entrances and placing school resource officers in schools.
"The students get to know them, and quite frankly, if someone is going to do something they shouldn't, they tell the police officer before they get to school to do that," Battle said.
Battle said since the enhanced measures were taken, his area has not had any serious school safety problems.
The proposals going through the Legislature right now are facing a quickly approaching deadline as the end to the legislative session nears. House and Senate leaders have not shown any particular interest in letting the gun bills out this session.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said Tuesday that he was supportive of Ivey's school security plans.
Battle said schools should focus on "tried and true" safety measures.
"The knee-jerk reactions to this are just that," Battle said. "Let's do something that makes sense, that's been done, that we know it works. Let's put our money in systems that are very workable and will keep our students safe."
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