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State Senate Approves Bill Requiring School Resource Officers to Be Armed

A measure that would add to major school safety legislation that passed into law last year advanced to the state House of Representatives after being approved by the Senate by a vote of 34-1 on Monday.

Senate Bill 8 would require school resource officers (SROs) to be armed with a gun. 

“If we are protected by those who are sworn law enforcement officers with a firearm, would we not want the same for our children in Kentucky public schools?,” said Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), who sponsored the bill. “It is easy for us here to get caught up in discussions that center around guns ... but to not allow a sworn law enforcement officer the ability to carry a gun is limiting. They need to be equipped to be able to do their job.”

The bill adds to the 2019 School Safety and Resiliency Act, catalyzed by the Marshall County High School shooting. Sen. Danny Carroll (R-Paducah), whose district includes the high school, stood to express his appreciation for SB 8.

“We owe it to our children to give our SROs every tool they need to do their job,” said Carroll, a retired police officer.

Additional safety measures would clarify the definition of a SRO to allow a school superintendent to specify any individual to serve as a district’s school safety coordinator, which school facilities are required to have SROs, who produces an active shooter training video and when classroom doors can be left unlocked.

Wise said SB 8 balances provisions that would harden schools – a reference to investments in physical safety measures such as reinforced doors and the armed SROs – with provisions that address the mental health of students. The mental health provisions of the bill specify that the goal is to have at least one school counselor per public school and to have at least one school counselor, or school-based mental health services provider, for every 250 students.

Wise added that SB 8 doesn’t address funding.

“We are still going to have to address that this session,” he said. “There are a lot of goals here. I call upon this body and the body down the hall that we will continue to make this a priority as we go forward this legislative session.”

Sen. Tom Buford (R-Nicholasville) who also sponsored the bill, stood to explain why he supported the firearm provision of the bill.

“I think knowledge and wisdom tell me don’t take a knife to a gunfight,” he said.

 From the Legislative Research Commission