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After Marshall County Shooting, State Lawmakers Disagree On Next Steps

Alix Mattingly

A day after two teenagers were killed and 18 others injured in a shooting at Marshall County High School, state legislators weighed in on whether the General Assembly should pass any policies to try and prevent similar tragedies.

Sen. Danny Carroll, a Republican from Paducah, said he hoped the incident would “pull us together” but that the problem can’t be solved in Frankfort.

“I think the reality is no matter what we do physically, if the student is in the mind to do something like this, they’re going to do it,” said Carroll, who graduated from Marshall County High School and represents the area.

Carroll cited bullying, especially through social media, as a possible factor in the shooting.

“Imagine how this is for children whose filter is even less developed than ours is,” he said. “Imagine what these kids go through, imagine the pressure.”

A sophomore at Marshall County High School in Benton opened fire on classmates in a common area early Tuesday morning, killing 15 year-olds Bailey Hope and Preston Cope.

As of Wednesday afternoon, four students were still hospitalized at Vanderbilt University Medical Center according to the Tennessean.

Local prosecutors said they plan to pursue charges of murder and attempted murder.

Benton is a rural community of about 5,000 people in far-western Kentucky. The nearby city of Paducah experienced its own mass shooting on December 10, 1997 when 14-year-old Michael Carneal opened fire on a prayer circle, killing three and injuring five.

Louisville Democratic Rep. Attica Scott said the legislature needs to lift its ban on local cities and counties passing gun laws.

“We’re training our babies how to react when faced with an active shooter, but we’re not taking action on gun safety,” Scott said in a speech on the House floor.

The legislature has passed several laws preventing local governments from passing any type of law regulating firearms sales or possession restrictions.

Some lawmakers have long tried to overturn the policies, but have failed.

Republican Rep. Jill York of Grayson said the shooting shouldn’t be “politicized.”

“While there are parents choosing caskets and deciding what to bury their children in, perhaps we can lay down the political push until that has happened,” York said.

Republican Sens. Steve West, of Paris, and Ralph Alvarado, of Winchester, have proposed a bill that would allow schools to have armed “marshals”— teachers or staff who would keep a gun at school to protect students from violence.

Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones, a Democrat from Pikeville, called for all of Kentucky’s schools to have armed officers.

“If it prevented one other incident like this to take place,” said Jones, no matter what we had to do to come up with the revenue, it would be well-worth it.”

Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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