A new law in Kentucky will mandate that all school police officers must carry guns as part of an effort to secure the lives of the students.
Democratic Governor Andy Beshear signed the bill into law on Friday, ending months of controversy and protests from anti-gun groups and Democrats in the state legislature. The bill, however, received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Kentucky House and Senate.
Education Chairman of the Senate, Republican Max Wise, praised Beshear for signing the bill, citing the boost to school safety in the state. “This new legislation, which goes into effect immediately, is crucial to the General Assembly’s continued efforts to protect Kentucky’s children, teachers and staff by improving the safety of our schools,” he said. “I am appreciative of all those who provided the necessary input and support to see this measure come to fruition.”
Though the bill sailed through the House and Senate earlier this year on its way to the governor’s desk, the Black Caucus protested, citing what they felt was an added danger to black students in Kentucky schools. “I’m asking that you consider children that come from a different walk,” said Democratic House Rep. Charles Booker, who is launching a campaign for the U.S. Senate. He further expressed fear that minority students could be mistreated by armed police in the school.
A bipartisan committee was formed in the Kentucky General Assembly following the death of two students in 2018 shooting at Marshall County High School. That committee was tasked with talking to parents, teachers, students, and law enforcement in the state to determine the best solutions. “We have a responsibility to protect our children,” said a parent of a 15-year-old shooting victim at Marshall. “They are more important than anything.”
Though the question of arming police, security, and even teachers in the wake of each school shooting often serves as a politically divisive blockade for progress, Kentucky has taken a large first step in securing school buildings acting as a first line of defense against would-be intruders who intend harm to those inside. There were 32 shootings at kindergarten through 12th grade schools between January and November of 2019.
Though high-profile anti-gun groups like March for Our Lives and Everytown create headlines by demanding stricter gun control and extended background checks, Pro-Second Amendment groups and President Trump have championed additional armed security for schools. The president has, on several occasions, also lobbied for arming trained teachers to defend students against classroom invasions.
“If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly,” Trump said in 2018.
“Evil walks among us,” said NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre following the Parkland, Florida school shooting in February 2018 that claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers. “And God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids.”