Legislation would place officers in schools, improve background checks

JACKSON – Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves today presented two proposals to make Mississippi schools a safer place for children to learn.

Reeves proposed creating a fund to assist schools that hire certified law enforcement officers on campuses. He also wants to require Mississippi courts to report findings of mental incompetence to the FBI’s background check system to ensure individuals with a history of mental illness cannot purchase firearms in accordance with federal law.

Reeves’ initiatives were in response to the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children and six adults dead.

“Like so many others across the nation, I was in shock as I watched those tragic events unfold in Newtown, Conn.,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said. “I held my daughters closer that night, and my heart ached for those parents in Connecticut who could not do the same. I cannot imagine the grief they struggle with everyday. I believe these measures I am proposing today will make our students safer in their schools and ease the tensions and fears of many parents.”

“Strong leaders across our country are coming together to protect our children and make our schools safer,” said Chris Cox, Executive Director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action. “Lt. Governor Reeves is taking strong steps in the right directions, and the NRA is proud to commend his efforts.”

One proposal would establish a $7.5 million grant program at the Mississippi Department of Education that would provide up to $10,000 to pay for a certified law enforcement officer at a public school. The local community would fund the remaining costs. Law enforcement officers would be required to train in the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training program at the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers’ Training Academy, which is used by law enforcement nationwide to train officers on responding to shooting incidents.

“Several Mississippi schools have school resource officers on campus to respond to a crime, but many other districts cannot afford this measure of protection for students,” Reeves said. “A certified, specially trained officer can quickly stop threats to students and potentially save lives.”

Reeves also will push for Mississippi courts to report findings of mental incompetence, institutional commitment and pleadings or judgments to crimes using the insanity defense to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Sixteen states require courts to provide mental health information to NICS, including Alabama, Georgia and Texas.

“This will allow complete background checks that follow federal law and protect the public from someone who could be a threat to safety,” Reeves said.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves