State Politics

Dismissing gun law changes, a top lawmaker wants volunteer officers guarding NC schools

A 2013 North Carolina law allowing volunteer officers in schools may get more attention in the aftermath of the Florida high school massacre.

House Speaker Tim Moore is talking about the law that allows sheriffs’ offices and police departments to set up volunteer school safety resource programs using people with experience in law enforcement or as military police. The volunteers work in schools under agreements between law enforcement agencies and local school boards. Moore, a Kings Mountain Republican, suggested Thursday that the law has been underused.

“Some of the response has not been as great as some of the sheriffs wanted,” Moore told journalists at the North Carolina Press Association convention. “But I can tell you that in light of what’s happened, that many sheriffs’ offices are now redoubling their efforts.”

Moore has been out front talking about school security in response to last week’s Parkland, Florida, high school shooting, where a former student is charged with killing 14 students and three adults.

This week, Moore announced appointments to a school safety committee he expects to come up with more recommendations. He appeared on the cable channel HLN to talk about the bipartisan committee discussing “common-sense, simple things we can implement,” while dismissing the prospect of tightening gun laws.

“Folks want to try to drag the gun debate into it,” Moore said in the television interview. “Look, that’s a discussion for another time.”

The state Democratic Party condemned Moore for rejecting a debate about guns.

“Speaker Moore’s tone-deaf comments are shocking and infuriating,” NC Democratic Party Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said in a statement. “We have a gun epidemic in this country that nearly every American wants to seriously address, yet one of the most powerful legislators in our state is shutting the door on common sense reforms just days after the Parkland shooting.”

Moore told journalists Thursday he wanted to focus on solutions that can win support from both sides.

Discussion of school safety “always seems to devolve into the gun debate – guns bad, guns good, all that stuff,” he said. “What I’m trying to do, and working to continue to do is, let's deal with the things where we can agree. We can agree, for example, that we need to enhance the security of the schools. If somebody shouldn’t be in the school, by golly they ought to not be able to get in. Is there a way that doors can lock better?” Or, he asked, can retired law enforcement officers be there?

In recent years, debate on guns in the North Carolina legislature has focused on expanding gun rights. Rep. Larry Pittman, a Republican from Cabarrus County near Charlotte, told other legislators that he recently met with a police officer who wants to talk with lawmakers about training school personnel and allowing them to carry guns on campus.

NBC News has reported that 18 states allow teachers to carry firearms on campus.

President Donald Trump is proposing arming some teachers, giving bonuses to those trained to handle weapons.

The Parkland shooting has brought a new wave of demands for gun control around the country and in the state. Hundreds of people calling for an end to gun violence marched to the state Capitol on Tuesday night. More than 100 students at UNC-Chapel Hill rallied on campus Thursday for gun control legislation.

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