MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — After fatal shootings in Florida and Birmingham schools, the Alabama House of Representatives voted Tuesday to reinstate a school safety task force.
Rep. Terri Collins, a Republican who chaired the original task force in 2016, introduced the initiative to create an annual force with law enforcement, educators, law enforcement and mental health professionals.
Democratic lawmakers questioned whether the recommendations from 2016, which included opening up communication between key departments and creating school security plans, made any difference. Collins said she had followed up to ensure they were implemented.
But Democrats said a task force isn’t strong enough action on gun control and mental health. Rep. Juandalynn Givan, who introduced a bill to raise the age to purchase assault rifles, said “we already know what the issues are.”
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“It was the gun that killed and it was in the hands of an individual where it shouldn’t have been,” Givan said. She urged lawmakers to take concrete action and approve already proposed legislation.
Multiple bills have been introduced to regulate guns or increase school safety since the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida, school shooting that killed 17. If bills don’t clear committees this week, they face little prospect of passage before the session finishes at the end of March.
Some lawmakers expressed frustration at the lack of change.
“Is owning a gun worth the life of our kids? I thought when my kids started driving, I would be afraid, but I’m more afraid of my kids going to school than driving a car. That’s really sad,” said Rep. Ralph Howard, a Democrat. “I thought maybe we would have a bill and something concrete and tell the kids in our district that this is what we worked on.”