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School safety complex for lawmaker
A senior member of Glynn County's delegation to the Georgia General Assembly cautions against rushing to pass legislation that would allow principals at public schools to be armed.

But, says Rep. Alex Atwood, R-St. Simons Island, it does sound like something worth discussing in the wake of the killing of 20 elementary school children and six adults by a gunman in Newtown, Conn., in December.

"As horrible as that situation is, it is my belief that we should not legislate by exception, nor rush into legislation with emotion and haste," he said. "The lives of innocents deserve the fullness of our thought and attention."

State Rep. Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, announced this past week that he intends to introduce a bill to allow one or more administrators in each school to be armed while on duty. The measure, similar to a National Rifle Association proposal to put an armed guard in every school, is in response to the Dec. 14 slayings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Under Battles' legislation, the decision whether to arm principals would rest with local boards of education.

That would make the measure more palatable to Atwood.

"This is a good starting point, and I certainly support that concept, for Georgia is a very big state and a one-size-fits-all solution is not always a good thing," Atwood said.

"However... I should not flatly state my support or opposition until I have actually seen the legislation, heard testimony on this issue and considered all the possible ramifications of this proposal."

Atwood said more can be done to make Georgia's communities safer.

"But the most effective solutions may be less comfortable, such as asking when it's OK to invade the privacy of those who are dangerously mentally ill, or solutions that may be more expensive, such as ensuring there are armed guards or designated weapons-carrying citizens even at schools and other 'gun-free zones,'" he said. "All of this should be done in as non-emotional, fiscally conservative and thoughtful manner as possible, and certainly not done in haste."

Sen. William Ligon, R-St. Simons Island, is generally supportive of the concept but like Atwood wants to know more about the legislation before saying how he would vote.

It might be a moot point in Glynn County regardless. Two school board members - Millard Allen and Chairman Mike Hulsey - said they would be opposed to arming administrators.

Schools Superintendent Howard Mann said he, too, would be unsupportive of any move to equip principals or their assistants with loaded guns.

"We already have a trained, armed police force in the system," Hulsey said.

Resource officers are posted at most schools and patrol others.

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