(CNN) – Terry McAuliffe, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in Virginia's gubernatorial race, called for extending the option of school resource officers to elementary schools.
In a statement Wednesday, McAuliffe said last week's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that resulted in 20 children and six adults dead "remind(s) us that we must take any reasonable action to make our children safer."
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"One change we can make now to keep Virginia's children safe is passing legislation to help localities provide School Resource Officers for elementary schools that request it," said McAuliffe, adding that trained officers are already present in many of the state's middle and high schools.
"These officers are professionals who are specifically trained to respond to dangerous situations and would be available to deal with any threat our children might face," he continued. "I will be encouraging Delegates and Senators from both parties to support mainstream legislation to this effect that would improve the safety of our children with limited cost to the Commonwealth."
McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, also said in a statement Monday that mental health issues should be a priority while affirming his support for an assault weapons ban, more thorough background checks as well as renewing the Commonwealth's one-gun-a-month rule – legislation repealed this year limiting gun purchases to one per month.
McAuliffe's comments come after Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, a Republican, suggested Tuesday it's time to start discussing arming school personnel, including teachers, as a line of defense against violence such as the Connecticut school shooting.
"I know there's been a knee jerk reaction against that," McDonnell said to the idea when asked in an interview on WTOP, a Washington radio station. "I think there should be a discussion of that – if people were armed, not just the police officer but other school officials were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would have been an opportunity to stop aggressors coming in to the schools."
Virginia law bans possession of a firearm by anyone other than law enforcement within 1,000 feet of a school – a measure McDonnell said he supported but suggested allowing the teachers at Sandy Hook to be armed could have saved lives.
McDonnell's suggestion follows another Republican governor, and former Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry who endorsed the idea of having teachers with the proper training and license to have "access to weapons in their school" and licensed Texans "should be able to carry your handgun anywhere in this state."
McAuliffe will likely face Republican candidate Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the 2013 general election to replace McDonnell, who is restricted by Virginia law from running for a second consecutive term as governor.