Virginia GOP proposes adding more cops at schools

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Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Virginia Republicans on Thursday proposed spending paying to station more police officers at schools around the state as a way of preventing another school shooting like the one last week in Newtown, Conn.

"The tragedy in Connecticut is heartbreaking. As the Newtown community begins a healing process that will last longer than we can ever imagine, our thoughts naturally turn to our own children," House Speaker Bill Howell said. "We must look closely at everything we can to make sure our children, schools and communities are safe. This includes evaluating school safety, our mental health laws and services, and our gun laws."

Virginia already budgeted $2.1 million in its two-year budget to keep police officers at the schools, but House Republicans said that isn't enough.

Democratic candidate for governor Terry McAuliffe made a similar pitch this week following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six adults dead.

The Republican proposal is the latest of several initiatives proposed by lawmakers from both parties to curb school violence.

Del. Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, will file legislation that allows teachers to carry firearms in the classroom. Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli have both expressed interest in the proposal.

Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Highland Springs, has said he will file legislation to ban the sale of assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips.

McDonnell and Cuccinelli are reluctant to impose new restrictions on gun ownership and have been criticized for it by Democrats in Virginia and around the country. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell called McDonnell "a coward and a wuss" for not embracing those reforms.

McDonnell on Thursday issued an executive order establishing a task force to analyze school safety and propose changes. McDonnell's secretaries of education, public safety and health and human resources are on the commission.

"Even with raw emotions still running so high, it is prudent to begin to consider reasonable policy changes," McDonnell said. "Public safety is a primary responsibility of every level of government."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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