By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Gun control proposals failed in the Alabama Legislature after most Republican committee members skipped out on Wednesday debate on the bills, including a proposal to raise the age to buy an AR-15 or similar rifle.
The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee canceled a scheduled meeting after only four members, mostly Democrats, attended. The committee has 11 members.
The lack of action likely kills the bills for the session. The committee inaction came a day after the House of Representatives failed to bring a Republican bill to arm teachers up for vote, also signaling the demise of that proposal.
Rep. Juandalynn Givan, a Birmingham Democrat, said the lack of attendance for the gun control debate shows that Alabama lawmakers are not serious about discussing substantive changes to gun laws.
“Vote it up or vote it down. Don’t be cowards. …. You can’t show up at the meeting to at least have a conversation?” Givan said.
Givan referenced how students walked out of high schools across the country last week in national protests against gun violence. “Our kids walked out of school last week to take a stand, and we can’t come to a meeting to take a vote. What does that say about the leadership in the state of Alabama?”
Givan’s bill would have raised the age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21. At least two legislatures, including Florida’s, approved similar measures after last month’s shooting at a Florida high school that claimed 17 lives.
The committee was also scheduled to debate two other gun control bills by Democrats. One would allow judges to temporarily take firearms from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. Another was a long-shot proposal to ban sales of AR-15’s and similar weapons.
The separate Republican proposal to arm teachers — another idea introduced in the wake of the Florida shooting __ also stalled in the legislative session expected to wrap up next week.
The House of Representatives adjourned Tuesday without debating a bill by Republican Rep. Will Ainsworth of Guntersville that would allow designated teachers and school administrators, to carry, or access, firearms in school after undergoing training.
Republican lawmakers appeared divided over the proposal that got pushback from some educators and groups such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It would have also likely faced a filibuster by Democrats. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, in a statement signaling the bills demise, said that: “I can offer a personal guarantee that this issue will be revisited when the Legislature convenes its next session.”
Ainsworth said Wednesday that he believed he had the votes to narrowly clear a procedural hurdle and pass the legislation, but it faced time constraints and an expected filibuster.
Ainsworth said many schools cannot afford to keep an armed law enforcement officer, known as a school resource officer, on campus. He said he and other lawmakers will urge Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to call a special session this summer on school safety.
“We’ve got over 500 schools in our state that don’t have any armed protection. In my opinion, that is an urgent need that needs to be addressed,” Ainsworth said.