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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Teachers and other school personnel could have access to less-than-lethal weapons in potentially deadly situations under a bill filed Thursday by state Sen. Danny Carroll in response to a school shooting in Marshall County that left two students dead and 21 injured.

Senate Bill 162 would allow school districts to authorize school staff to use less-than-lethal weapons such as firearms that shoot rubber bullets or bean bags, tranquilizer guns, stun guns, or flash bang devices in life-threatening situations. Staff approved for such measures would be required to receive annual training from the Kentucky State Police under the bill.

The weapons would be stored in a secure, on-site location that includes at least one bulletproof vest and garments that would identify safety response volunteers to responding law enforcement agencies.

Carroll, R-Paducah, stressed that he drafted SB 162 as an option as the General Assembly considers possible actions it may take in response to the fatal Jan. 23 shooting at Marshall County High School.

For him, the best option is to ensure schools have well-trained resource officers on staff, but he said that might not be financially feasible for all districts.

“In no way do I think this is going to solve the problem,” said Carroll, a former police officer and Marshall County High School graduate.

“In reality it’s pretty counterintuitive to put someone into a situation with somebody armed with a gun with something that’s less than lethal. I get that, but I also know how effective some of these weapons can be from the flash bangs, looking at beanbag shotguns, even tranquilizer guns that you could use to get someone under control.”

Carroll said he’s unsure at this point how hard he’ll push for SB 162, but he said he’s received positive feedback from some of his Senate colleagues on the measure. He also said he’s discussed the legislation with Marshall County Schools Superintendent Trent Lovett.

Carroll noted that he’s working with a child psychologist in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services in examining tests that could identify potentially violent students and place them in support programs and that the legislature could consider ways to beef up enforcement of laws already in effect regarding school safety.

He said SB 162 is one option before lawmakers as they consider their response to the shooting in Marshall County. Education committees in the Senate and House of Representatives are expected to hear from state and national experts on the topic soon, Carroll said.

“I wanted to get the bill filed so that’d be something we could discuss during that meeting,” Carroll said. “… I really think it’s important to hear from experts rather than have knee-jerk reactions to this.”

Nancy Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, said KDE staff are still reviewing the legislation and Jefferson County Public Schools Communications Director Allison Martin said JCPS staff has not had a chance to review SB 162.

Eric Kennedy, government relations director for the Kentucky School Boards Association, said his group hopes the General Assembly avoids swiftly passing legislation in response to the shooting at MCHS and takes time to consider appropriate actions.

He noted that the legislature created the Kentucky Center for School Safety during the 1998 legislative session following the December 1997 shooting at Heath High School and that the chairmen of the education committees – Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, and Rep. John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville – said in remarks during a joint meeting this week that they wanted to take “a very deliberative approach to the issue of school safety.”

“That’s exactly where we are on this,” Kennedy said.

“We don’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction and pass any one approach to this issue into law when we only have several weeks left in this session. We’re hoping that the committee really studies it, perhaps throughout the interim, and really looks at what other states have tried – what works, what doesn’t and what could really address school safety.”

The MCHS shooter, 15-year-old Gabriel Parker, faces two murder charges and 14 counts of first-degree assault in the fatal incident.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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