Alabama’s New Guns in School Law

Posted in Alabama Laws on June 18, 2018.

School shootings in America have been in the news dozens of times since the beginning of this year alone. Alabama has not managed to escape the headlines. With the local and national death tolls mounting, Alabama lawmakers decided it was time to make a change. Governor Kay Ivey, with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, announced the start of the “Alabama Sentry Program” in May 2018. The program will allow school administrators to carry guns in school to respond to active shooter situations. Here are the details of the new law:

What Is the Alabama Sentry Program?

The Alabama Sentry Program is a statewide program that will permit approved administrators to go through training and bring firearms to school, in the hope that these administrators would be able to stop an active shooter. It is a voluntary program that schools and staff members do not have to follow. The mission of an approved sentry would be to use lethal force to defend students and faculty of a school from an armed intruder. If a school administrator wishes to become a sentry, the situation must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. The school does not have a resource officer.
  2. The local school board, superintendent, and county sheriff approved the administrator to carry.
  3. The sentry has a valid concealed carry permit.
  4. The sentry achieves the title of reserve deputy sheriff.
  5. The sentry successfully passes drug tests, mental health evaluations, and a stress test.
  6. The sentry successfully completes training under the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
  7. The approved administrator will store the firearm in a safe and only use it in response to an armed intruder.

The Alabama Sentry Program will start at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, with sentry training to start immediately and carry on throughout summer break. Governor Ivey stated that the program is a response to the government having insufficient funds to equip every school with a resource officer. At schools that don’t have the officers, the Sentry Program is what the governor believes is the best way to protect students until the Legislature can come up with a more concrete plan.

Arguments for and Against the Alabama Sentry Program

The Sentry Program would enable school administrators (not teachers) to bring a weapon to school as a means of protecting students, staff, and visitors from threat of imminent bodily harm from an intruder. According to Ivey, the program is a way to “provide additional security measures for our children.” Ivey says that it is a “reasonable and measured approach to provide…for schools without a resource officer.” She believes schools in the state cannot wait for the next legislative session to take action in the current school shooting climate.

Supporters of the Alabama Sentry Program include the Superintendent of Education and the Secretary of Law Enforcement in the state. Arguments for establishing school administrators as sentries say that it is a common-sense approach to making schools more secure while waiting for further Legislature decisions. Others say it is an effective way to add safety resources to schools without needing further funding – especially for rural schools that are 20 minutes or more from the nearest police station.

Those against the new guns in school law argue that it may make it more difficult for police to respond to school shootings, as they would have to identify an armed administrator before going after the shooter. Justin Smith, a junior at Wenonah High School, said Ivey’s announcement angered him, and he believes it is just a political stunt to win an upcoming election. Ashley Causey, leader of the Birmingham March for Our Lives, stated, “You can’t fight guns with more guns.” Stay tuned for more updates on Alabama’s new Sentry Program in the near future.