Hogan announces funding and initiatives to address school safety
— Gov. Larry Hogan has announced $125 million in increased funding and emergency legislation to enhance school safety and voiced his support for legislative proposals to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill, repeat violent offenders and those convicted of domestic violence.
“There is no more important job than keeping our citizens safe, especially our children,” Hogan said at a news conference Wednesday, Feb. 28, in Annapolis. “Citizens here in our state and all across America want to know what government at all levels is doing to keep our children safe, and what we are collectively doing to stop gun violence and violent crime.”
Hogan said Maryland already is ahead of the curve compared to other states, specifically noting the Handle With Care program, connecting law enforcement, schools and human services to provide interventions for children exposed to trauma, and the Mar yland Center for School Safety, sharing critical information in real time among law enforcement and school staff, and providing technical assistance and training.
Those initiatives have paid off in recent weeks, Hogan said, referencing successful law enforcement interventions in Frederick, St. Mary’s and Montgomery counties.
“Although I believe we are ahead of the nation, we must do more,” he said.
The $125 million in additional funding will be used to accelerate and enhance school safety improvements throughout the state, Hogan said, by purchasing secure doors and windows, metal detectors, security cameras and panic buttons.
Additionally, $50 million in new school safety grants will be administered annually, to pay for new school resource officers, additional counselors and cutting-edge technology, Hogan said.
The funding will be allocated through the recently announced education lockbox proposal, which will provide an additional $4.4 billion in education spending from casino revenues.
A planned emergency legislation submittal will create Maryland’s first statewide school safety standards, Hogan said, including required training and certification for all school resource officers and security staff.
The legislation will require all school systems to conduct an annual safety assessment for each school in its jurisdiction, and develop plans to address behavioral threats and emergency situations.
Hogan said he also intends to submit a supplemental budget Friday, March 2, to provide an additional $5 million for the Maryland Center for School Safety — a funding increase of 600 percent.
The money will go toward hiring analysts and social media trackers, increasing the center’s physical presence statewide and assisting local school districts with conducting the newly mandated safety assessments.
Hogan said he signed an executive order directing every state agency to conduct reviews, and update its internal policies and procedures in active assailant events.
Finally, Hogan said he was pushing for several initiatives aimed at restricting access to guns for groups of people who have proven to be a threat.
“I’ve said for years we need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and people with criminal backgrounds,” Hogan said.
Hogan said he supported “red flag” legislation, which would allow family members or law enforcement to petition the court for an order that would prohibit people from possessing firearms or ammunition if deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others.
He called for federal action to institute a universal background check system.
“It is long past time for the federal government to finally take action on this common sense measure,” Hogan said. “They need to get it done.”
Hogan said current laws prohibiting firearm possession by a person convicted of domestic violence need to be strengthened and clarified.
“It is well known that dangerous combination can have disastrous effects,” Hogan said, referring to the recent murder of Prince George’s County Police Cpl. Mujahid Ramzziddin.
Hogan said he also supported legislation banning bump stocks.
Finally, Hogan talked about proposed legislation, currently in the state’s senate, to toughen penalties for people committing violent crimes with guns.
“Maryland already had some of toughest gun laws in the country when I took office, but that didn’t stop 343 people from being gunned down and killed in Baltimore City last year,” Hogan said. “Criminals don’t usually follow gun laws, or murder laws, or drug laws.”
Hogan said the proposed legislation must be passed to stop repeat violent offenders.
“If you commit a crime with a gun, we need to get you off the streets and into jail. If you’re a repeat violent offender, we need to put you in jail,” Hogan said. “This revolving door of people shooting people and then being let back on the street has been going on for too long.”
Hogan concluded his remarks by reiterating his commitment to public safety.
“I want to be very clear: My most important responsibility is keeping the citizens of Maryland safe, and the most important responsibility we all have is to keep our children safe,” Hogan said. “Let’s get it done together.”