FRANKFORT, Ky. — A month after a school shooting killed two teenagers and injured more than a dozen others in his state, Kentucky’s Republican governor says the state should consider allowing some people to carry guns in public schools.
“I am a supporter of considering having people who are armed inside of the school,” Gov. Matt Bevin told WKDZ radio Thursday. “Not anybody, … but people who have been highly and specifically trained, people who have gone through a battery of psychological and psychiatric tests to ensure they are ready and able to handle this type of situation the best they possibly can.”
Bevin said he is meeting with state House and Senate leaders Thursday to discuss school safety. A legislative committee Thursday morning approved a resolution urging local school boards, which have the power to let certain people carry on campus, to allow armed teachers or other school employees “if they volunteer and are properly trained.” The Pike County School Board in eastern Kentucky has already voted to do that.
Also Thursday, the House and Senate education committees are scheduled to have a joint meeting to discuss school safety. But Bevin said he would reject any proposal to study the issue and do something later.
“I don’t think that’s appropriate. I think now is the time to take action,” Bevin said. “What if another tragedy were to happen because we were taking our time studying this?”
The fiercely debated idea of letting teachers carry guns in public schools has gained attention nationwide after the Kentucky shooting and another in Florida that killed 17 people. Wednesday, a social studies teacher in Georgia barricaded himself in a classroom and fired a gun. No one was injured, but the gunshots prompted another chaotic lockdown and caused a fleeing student to injure her ankle.
Kentucky Democratic Sen. Perry Clark mentioned that shooting when he voted against a resolution urging local school boards to let teachers carry guns.
“One errant bullet can kill a child, can kill another teacher, can kill a friend,” he said.
Republican Sen. John Schickel said probably very few teachers would willingly bring a gun to school, but said “what a great gift those people that are willing to participate … and make all our schools a much safer place.”
The debate over school safety also comes as students are becoming more engaged in the political process. Hundreds of students marched on the Florida Capitol last month, with some demanding the state legislature pass a ban on the type of assault rifle used in the deadly Valentine’s Day attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Lawmakers refused.
On March 20, a team of high school students associated with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence plan a rally at the Kentucky Capitol “to highlight the issue of student safety and school climate in the context of recent school shootings and threats in Kentucky and across the country.” It’s unclear if they are advocating for or against specific legislation.
“That’s the million-dollar question. That is what we are hotly debating across the state right now,” said Rachel Belin, the adult coordinator of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team. “Some feel very strongly we have to ban assault weapons. Some even think you need to arm up our schools.”
But Belin said the students can agree that “we need to be having a conversation that is much broader than just banning guns.”
“This is something that I didn’t experience as a student and most of their parents, all of their parents didn’t experience,” Belin added. “It is their reality and therefore they should have a little more weight on what they think needs to happen.”