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Beshear signs bill to require school officers to be armed

February 21, 2020 GMT
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announces he signed a school safety measure on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 in Frankfort, Ky. The measure will require that law enforcement officers carry weapons when assigned to provide security at schools. Beshear was joined at the announcement by J. Michael Brown, right, his secretary of the Cabinet. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announces he signed a school safety measure on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 in Frankfort, Ky. The measure will require that law enforcement officers carry weapons when assigned to provide security at schools. Beshear was joined at the announcement by J. Michael Brown, right, his secretary of the Cabinet. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed legislation Friday to require that law enforcement officers carry weapons when assigned to provide security at schools.

The measure won strong bipartisan support in the legislature. It’s a follow-up to last year’s sweeping school safety law stemming from a 2018 fatal school shooting in Kentucky.

“I simply cannot ask a school resource officer to stop an armed gunman entering a school without them having the ability to not only achieve this mission but also to protect themselves,” the governor told reporters. “We must be able to stop the worst of the worst.”

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Beshear had until Friday to either sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

In announcing his decision, the governor repeatedconcerns thatthe bill’s supporters made for arming school officers — that other law officers couldn’t respond quickly enough to a school shooting.

Beshear said he considers the presence of armed officers at schools as a potential deterrent.

Republican Sen. Max Wise, the bill’s lead sponsor, said the governor’s action signing the measure into law will go down as an “incredibly important day” for the state.

The measure is crucial to the state’s efforts to bolster school safety, Wise said.

Last year’s school safety law did not specify whether school police officers — known as school resource officers — needed to carry a weapon.

The issue of arming school-based officers has sparked intense debate in the state’s largest school district, which includes Louisville.

Beshear said Friday he hopes concerns about arming school officers can be alleviated through the officers’ training.Executive Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown said Beshear’s administration welcomes suggestions from the bill’s critics on shaping curriculum and training for school officers.

“The best way to ultimately address those concerns is to include those voices and to make sure that they have a chance to help us develop curriculum, to help us address where this concern comes from,” the governor said.

The school safety efforts are in response to the 2018 shooting at Marshall County High School in western Kentucky, where two 15-year-old students, Bailey Holt and Preston Cope, were killed and more than a dozen others were injured when another student opened fire.

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The legislation is Senate Bill 8.