COLUMBIA, S.C. — In the wake of legislative inaction on a budget request to fund police officers in South Carolina’s schools, some state lawmakers have proposed charging a fee on all handgun sales to pay for it.
On Thursday, a dozen Democratic House lawmakers introduced legislation that would attach a 7 percent charge to handgun sales in the state. The money would go into a “School Safety Fund,” which schools could use to pay for school resource officers.
The proposal, now assigned to a committee, comes after House lawmakers refused to put any money in this year’s proposed budget for school resource officers. During floor debate, Republican state Rep. Josiah Magnuson floated the idea of taking $5 million out of the state Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department’s budget to pay for the officers, but that proposal was voted down.
The Senate has yet to take up the House’s spending plan. The House approved the plan despite a push from Gov. Henry McMaster to allocate $5 million for police officers in schools. The governor made the plea before 17 people were killed in a Florida school shooting. Since then, the governor has said the state should find whatever money it takes to keep South Carolina’s schools safe, convening a school safety summit earlier this month.
Even if lawmakers found a way to fund the governor’s proposal, the money would barely make in a dent in the $60 million a year state Education Department officials say is needed for an officer in all 1,200 schools.
President Donald Trump has said he supports efforts to arm teachers and school staff, but McMaster and South Carolina law enforcement leaders including State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel have said that trained law enforcement officers, not educators, are better equipped to serve in those roles.
At a meeting earlier this week of a House panel discussing various school safety proposals, no one spoke in favor of arming teachers.