A Kentucky House committee has given the green light to a bill that would require all school police officers to carry guns, with the goal of preventing school shootings.
The proposal is an update to a school safety bill that passed last year, which required every school to hire a school resource officer, or SRO. This year’s legislation would mandate every SRO carry a gun.
“I know as a parent when I drop my children off at school I want to make sure that they are going into a safe environment,” bill sponsor Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville) told the House committee Tuesday. “If we are going to say these schools are going to be safe, and you’re having sworn law enforcement officers, they’ve got to be able to do their job if a situation were to get to that potential tragedy.”
All SRO’s are already armed, so most districts would see no changes, according to the Kentucky Center for School Safety.
Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville) voted against the gun requirement. In committee, Marzian pointed to numerous police shootings of unarmed Black men and women across the county.
“I’m really worried about a child in the school reaching for a pencil and an SRO shooting that child by mistake, and I think it’s only a matter of time until that happens,” she said.
The House education committee passed the bill despite those concerns. It goes to the House floor for a final vote. The bill has already cleared the Senate.
Reaction in Jefferson County
If the bill becomes law, it could end discussions in Jefferson County about creating the state’s first unarmed school police force.
While some community members in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) have been critical of state lawmakers’ desire to end those conversations, at least one Jefferson County Board of Education member welcomed the committee action.
“I am even more hopeful about the passage of the bill to have armed officers in our schools,” JCPS school board member Linda Duncan wrote in an email to WFPL.
“For 15 years we had armed SRO’s in our buildings with no issues of police pulling guns on students, students getting guns from officers, or officers firing their weapons at anyone at school,” she wrote. “We have fire drills and no buildings have burned down. We have tornado drills and no tornadoes have destroyed any buildings. All prepare us for the worst. That’s what our [SROs] will be there for – prepared to take on an active shooter in the worst case scenario. I am grateful to the Legislature for trying to close the door on not allowing our officers to be armed and prepared to meet an active shooter threat.”
According to the state, there has never been an instance in which an SRO shot a student.