ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Larry Hogan pledged a $125 million commitment Wednesday for capital improvements to make Maryland’s schools safer from violence like school shootings and added another $50 million annually to pay for school resource officers, counselors and technology.
The capital improvements would be used to enhance improvements such as secure doors and windows, metal detectors, security cameras and panic buttons.
Hogan said Maryland already was ahead of other states grappling with school safety concerns following the Valentine’s Day assault at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that killed 17. Hogan noted Maryland’s sweeping gun-control bill from 2013 that banned 45 types of assault weapons. He also cited recent examples in Montgomery, Frederick and St. Mary’s counties, where policies enabled students, parents and law enforcement to prevent potential tragedies.
“Although I believe we’re ahead of the nation, we must do more,” Hogan said at a news conference.
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Hogan linked the allocations to his proposal to create a lockbox on casino revenues requiring that money set aside for education must be spent above required state funding formulas.
The governor outlined the plans on the same day state lawmakers held a hearing on a measure to ban bump stocks. Those are devices that can increase a semi-automatic rifle’s firing rate to nearly fully automatic. Hogan, a Republican, said he supports the ban.
The hearings brought educators to the state capital to urge lawmakers to pass the bill. Erin Moyer, a librarian at St. Paul’s School for Girls in Brooklandville, Maryland, said he regularly thinks about how he would respond to a shooter attacking the school.
“I am tired of having to look at students in the eye and tell them they are safe and they are OK,” Moyer said. “I am tired of telling them something I do not know to be 100 percent true. The time for thoughts, the time for conversation, is over. The time for action is now.”
Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch, a Democrat, also testified in favor of the bump stock ban.
“I know people have different philosophies, but I really believe that there’s no practical use for a bump stock in today’s society,” the speaker said.
The governor also announced plans to submit emergency legislation to create statewide standards for school safety and broaden the authority of the Maryland Center for School Safety. He also said he would submit a supplemental budget his week to increase the center’s budget to hire analysts, expand the center’s presence statewide and to hire social media trackers to better bring intelligence to state and local law enforcement.
While the governor said he opposes arming teachers, as President Donald Trump has called for, Hogan said he believes local school systems should be able to decide on whether to have trained officers to protect students.
“I don’t think we should be handing out guns to drama teachers and biology teachers,” Hogan said. “However, I think we ought to let the local school systems make decisions about whether they should have trained resource officers that they believe could help protect kids in the schools. That’s a different story.”