Lawmakers want more done about school safety

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Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Some New Mexico lawmakers voiced concern Thursday that not enough is being done to ensure the safety of school students, even though the Legislature authorized up to $40 million for security measures during this year’s 30-day session.

During a meeting of top-ranking lawmakers at the Roundhouse, several expressed support for creation of a legislative task force or subcommittee to come up with additional recommendations for legislation, which could include changes to state gun laws or stiffer penalties for online school threats

While no vote was immediately taken, Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, whose wife is a school principal, said many students don’t currently feel safe in class.

“We have 330,000 students relying on us to do something for them,” said Muñoz, who added that he has heard from some high school students who plan to shift to home-schooling due to safety concerns at public schools.

Like many other states, New Mexico has been the scene of school gun violence, with Aztec still reeling from a December shooting that left two high schools students – and the 21-year-old gunman – dead.

The state has also had other school shootings, including a January 2014 incident in which a 13-year-old Roswell boy opened fire with a modified shotgun in a school gymnasium, injuring two fellow students.

The incidents have stirred debate at the state Capitol, but there’s been limited consensus on which policies to adopt to ensure school security.

On the one bill that was adopted, a state public school facilities agency is already holding a half-dozen or so meetings around the state this summer as a first step toward divvying up the $40 million that will be available over the next four years.

The state’s 89 school districts will be able to apply for chunks of funding, which could be spent on card-swipe door entry systems, metal directors, surveillance cameras and bulletproof windows.

“There are so many different kinds of school buildings – there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said at one point during Thursday’s meeting of the Legislative Council.

Meanwhile, lawmakers also discussed security concerns at the Roundhouse, which is one of the few state capitol buildings in which guns can be openly carried. A bill that would have prohibited openly carrying firearms inside the Capitol stalled in the House during the 2017 legislative session.

Several possible Roundhouse security changes will be scrutinized this summer, with a ban on firearms in the House and Senate public galleries among the ideas, Egolf said.

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Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

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