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Ky. GOP leaders signal support for SRO funding, hesitant on gun safety

The State Capitol in Frankfort houses the three branches of Kentucky's state government.
The State Capitol in Frankfort houses the three branches of Kentucky's state government.

In the wake of the Uvalde, Texas school shooting, Republican leaders of Kentucky’s legislature said that they would support more funding for school safety.

But when it comes to gun reform legislation, they say discussion at this point would be “premature.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said he was in favor of additional funding for School Resource Officers,acknowledging some local districts lack enough funding to pay for them, even though the legislature passed a bill requiring all schools to have SROs starting in August.

“We’re always interested about school safety and our children’s safety,” Stivers said.

 Stivers said there were “questions” about the role SROs and police played during the Texas shooting, where police apparently didn’t immediately respond to the situation.

When asked about potential gun safety legislation, Stivers said it would be too early to discuss proposals before a full investigation into the shooting.

“There is nothing out there that you can really definitively point your finger at why things took place. Until we get a full and final report to say we need to do A, B, C, or D, it would be premature,” he said.

State lawmakers passed House Bill 63 early this year, requiring school districts to have at least one resource officer in place for each campus beginning in August. But no plan for funding was in place, and many school districts say they can’t afford an SRO for every campus. 

Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, said there were already enough points of information for lawmakers to consider gun reform measures like a  red flag law, which would allow police or family members to ask a court to temporarily take guns away from people if they present a danger to themselves or others.

McGarvey said such measures have proven successful in other states in reducing gun violence related to firearm suicides. According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 63% of gun deaths in Kentucky are suicides.

House Minority Leader Joni Jenkins, another Louisville Democrat, echoed McGarvey’s concerns and encouraged law enforcement to participate in gun safety discussions.

“You can't tell me that law enforcement thinks it's a good idea for everybody to be carrying assault rifles. So I would encourage all those who have a stake in this, including law enforcement, to discuss gun legislation,” Jenkins said.

Republicans have steered clear of debate around gun safety legislation after the Texas school shooting, focusing instead on increasing law enforcement presence in campuses and mental health.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicansare working on a bipartisan solution with Democratic leaders, but has provided few specifics, besides seeking a solution that “targets the problem, which is mental illness and school safety.”

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

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