By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is proposing to provide state funds to help local school districts place law enforcement officers in schools.
Reeves announced the program and another that would report Mississippians with mental competency issues to a national database during a news conference at the state Capitol on Friday.
Reeves, who was flanked by Sens. Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, and Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, and a representative of the National Rifle Association, said the proposals were in response to the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people, including 20 children, were killed.
The shooting has led to discussions of possible gun control measures or enhanced background checks by the Obama administration. The NRA, a powerful pro-gun lobby, is opposing much of that effort, but was at the Reeves news conference as a show of support.
Reeves proposed a $7.5 million grant program administered by the state Department of Education to provide dollar for dollar matching funds to help districts hire certified law enforcement personnel to work in the schools.
“Several Mississippi schools have school resource officers on campus to respond to a crime, but many other districts cannot afford this measure of protection for students,” Reeves said in a news release. “A certified, specially trained officer can quickly stop threats to students and potentially save lives.”
Rep. Lester “Bubba” Carpenter, R-Burnsville, said earlier this week he would propose legislation to allow local school districts to train and arm teachers.
Reeves also is proposing that Mississippi report to an FBI database instances where courts determine “instances of mental incompetence” so those people cannot purchase a firearm.
“I don’t know where the money is coming from, but it seems to me that we have to find ways to provide extra protection to our schoolchildren,” said Rep. Preston Sullivan, D-Okolona. “That seems to be the times we live in.”
Rep. Kelvin Buck, D-Holly Springs, said he would favor “a more comprehensive approach” instead of simply surrounding students with armed officers.