By MALLORY MOENCH, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A shooting in an Alabama high school that left one student dead and another injured reignited debate Thursday among state lawmakers trying to come to a school safety solution before the end of the session.
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon met separately with Republicans and Democrats who sponsored school safety bills to consider proposing a package or reaching a compromise after Wednesday’s shooting. House members at the meetings said the Speaker’s actions showed hope for passing legislation this year, but bills face a rapidly approaching deadline in the next three weeks.
“We have a responsibility to do something,” said McCutcheon, who emphasized that he didn’t want to rush bills through the legislature. “I don’t want this issue to turn into a political issue, because our children are more important than politics and getting re-elected. This is something we need to take very seriously. We need to work on this and have a comprehensive plan.”
McCutcheon said he would speak with Senate leadership and respond next week with recommendations.
A day before the shooting, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey had introduced a school safety council and called for a report with security recommendations to be released in April. Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh said he hoped legislators would wait for the report before “throwing in bills.” He projected nothing would pass until 2019.
Birmingham police have taken one person into custody while they investigate the shooting, which took place the same day Florida lawmakers passed a school security bill package. It includes raising the age to buy an assault weapon and arming teachers, measures which have also been proposed in Alabama. Alabama House members said they would review and consider Florida’s legislation.
The shooting renewed calls from House Democrats for gun control.
“That young man should not have been able to bring a gun into the school,” said Rep. Mary Moore, a Democrat who proposed a bill to ban the future sale of assault weapons. “Whether accidental or not, it should not have happened.”
State Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, who represents the district where the shooting took place, got emotional on the Senate floor Thursday. She said lawmakers aren’t doing enough to protect children.
“I don’t have the answers, but I do believe that among all of us, we can find a way to make our children have a safe environment,” Coleman-Madison said.