TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Top Republican leaders in Kansas are laying out plans to address school safety after several mass shootings across the county in recent weeks.
Kansas Attorney General spoke with Kansas Capitol Bureau on Wednesday, about his “six-step” plan to address school safety in the state. The Attorney General also said he’s not advocating for further gun control after recent tragedies.
“I think it’s a mistake to immediately jump from a terrible, violent tragedy that draws a lot of attention to advocacy for gun control,” Schmidt said. “The second amendment has meaning. It is important to many, many Americans. It is important for public safety for many, many Americans’ security. And so, I just don’t think it’s a fruitful discussion … and I’m certainly not an advocate for additional gun control.”
“That’s why I’ve recommended things I think we can agree on … get done … make a difference … have our kids be safer,” he continued.
Schmidt, the current Republican front-runner in this year’s race for governor, said he would work with the Legislature to get all steps in place next year. In a news release, Schmidt’s campaign outlined his plan in the following steps:
- Double funding for the Safe & Secure Schools grant program;
- Hire, train and retain more School Resource Officers (SROs);
- Provide more mental-health professionals for schools by continuing to expand the Mental Health Intervention Team (MHIT) program until it is available to all school districts;
- Seek authority to use existing federal coronavirus funds for school-safety needs;
- Promote awareness in schools and among students of how and when to file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) about potential school threats;
- Enact the Reduce Armed Violence Act.
Schmidt’s plan to enact the Reduce Armed Violence Act, which he introduced earlier this year, is aimed at convicted felons who illegally possess firearms while committing new felonies. Under the plan, they could be sentenced to prison, instead of being placed on probation.
Schmidt said it seemed to gain bipartisan support but did not make it through “the legislative process” this year. He said he wants to try to push for it next year, and get it signed into law. Kansas U.S. Senator Roger Marshall also plans to address school safety at the federal level. This comes after 19 kids and 2 teachers were killed during a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas last month.
Kansas also witnessed a school shooting in March, which happened at Olathe East High School. A school resource officer and an assistant principal were seriously injured. Schmidt said he wanted to see what the Legislature would do this year before releasing his plan.
“For example, they already took a step to expand support for mental health engagement in school, which is part of our recommendation, so we wanted to see what was already done by the Legislature, and then we could see what next steps need to be taken,” Schmidt said.
In the Legislature, some legislation introduced by democrats has been passed over by GOP lawmakers. A bill aimed at outlawing “ghost guns” did not get a hearing in this year’s legislative session. However, it could still be taken up next year.
Also, a bill that would require domestic abusers to hand over their guns to law enforcement by court order has not made it to the floor. The bill would enforce current laws in the state. There are still efforts to get this above the line next session.
As of Wednesday, the Governor has not spoken publicly about her plan to address school safety needs. Kansas Capitol Bureau also reached out to Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s campaign to speak about the governor’s plan to address this issue. Lauren Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for Kelly’s campaign, responded in a statement via email.
“Governor Kelly has always been a strong supporter of the second amendment and believes Kansans have the right to purchase firearms to keep their families safe and to hunt. However, like most gun owners, Governor Kelly recognizes the need to balance this with the safety of our children. The Governor’s strong track record of investing in school safety by increasing pay for law enforcement and fully funding schools is just one of the reasons why over 125 Kansas educators across the state have endorsed her for reelection. Governor Kelly will continue to ensure our schools have the resources they need and push the Legislature to send her bipartisan, common-sense gun legislation that keeps our kids safe in schools.”Lauren Fitzgerald, Governor Kelly’s campaign spokesperson