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Kentucky Weighs Proposal To Allow School Staff To Carry Guns


After a mass shooting, the conversation typically turns to gun control. Elsewhere on the program, we'll hear about how Florida state lawmakers are wrestling with the question after last week's high school shooting there.

Another high school shooting happened in rural western Kentucky just a few weeks ago. There, a 15-year-old is accused of killing two classmates and wounding 18 others. Kentucky's Republican governor and legislature say they won't consider any new gun control measures. In fact, one bill on the table would let teachers and staff carry guns on campus. Kentucky Public Radio's Ryland Barton reports.

RYLAND BARTON, BYLINE: Republican State Senator Steve West admits his bill isn't going to stop all school shootings, but he hopes it'll help.

STEVE WEST: It increases that kid's chances of surviving. And if there is someone there with a weapon, they will be able to take down the assailant or at least calm the situation.

BARTON: Under Senate Bill 103, public school boards and private schools would be able to tap teachers or staff to be school marshals. Marshals would have to get a concealed carry permit to carry a gun on campus. In Kentucky, concealed carry classes teach basic firearm mechanics and safety but don't train participants for active shooter situations, which is the only circumstance the bill would allow school staff to use the guns. The weapons would be stored in a lockbox somewhere on school property at all other times.

WEST: I wish honestly that I didn't have to file this bill, and - or we weren't even having this discussion and that we could go back in time. But unfortunately we live in 2018.

BARTON: The shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky., took place after the 20th anniversary of one at Heath High School in nearby Paducah. Back then, Hollan Holm was shot in the head when a student opened fire on a group of praying classmates. During a rally at the state capitol in Frankfort, Holm said arming teachers won't stop school shootings.


HOLLAN HOLM: In the wake of Marshall County, members of the General Assembly seek to put more guns in more hands of people with less oversight. This is not a solution that would have saved lives at Heath High School. It would not have saved lives at Marshall County High School

BARTON: According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, eight states either allow concealed carry of firearms at K-12 schools or have no laws prohibiting them. West says he's still trying to refine the bill and considering other training requirements for the marshals.

WEST: Fifty states truly are experiment stations for this subject. Everybody's trying to grapple with it at the same time, and the Florida situation just enhances it even more.

BARTON: State Senator Danny Carroll, a Republican whose district includes Marshall County, says he's concerned about teachers using live ammunition in active shooter situations. He's proposed a bill that would allow teachers and staff to use non-lethal weapons that would be stored on campus.

DANNY CARROLL: We're talking about bean bag shotguns, shotguns that shoot rubber pellets, rubber bullets that are shot out of a pistol or a rifle, tranquilizer guns, the flash-bang devices that you often see on TV when SWAT teams make an entrance into a house.

BARTON: Many Kentucky schools already have school resource officers, often off-duty and armed police officers charged with protecting students. There was an armed guard at Parkland High School in Florida just as there was last month at Marshall County High School. Neither took down their shooter. In Kentucky, the guard did report the incident. For NPR News, I'm Ryland Barton in Frankfort, Ky. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryland is the state capitol reporter for the Kentucky Public Radio Network, a group of public radio stations including WKU Public Radio. A native of Lexington, Ryland has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.