WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBSMiami/CNN) — The US House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday to fund more security at schools, exactly one month after self-confessed gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and as thousands of students take part in a national walkout in protest of gun violence.
While the STOP School Violence Act had bipartisan support, many Democrats were frustrated that it doesn’t include any gun control measures.
“This is a pretense that we are doing something while assuring the NRA that we aren’t doing anything,” Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second ranking Democrat in the House, told reporters Tuesday.
The vote was 407-10. The bill attempts to curb school violence by providing more training for school officials and local law enforcement to respond to mental health crises, as well as, among other things, money to develop anonymous reporting systems for threats and deterrent measures like metal detectors and locks.
Many Democratic lawmakers pressed Republican leaders to bring up gun control measures to expand background checks and ban assault weapons, but House GOP leaders continue to say they will wait to see what, if anything, the Senate can pass.
President Trump applauded the House passage of the bill in a statement released by the White House Press Secretary.
“This legislation helps protect our Nation’s youth and educators by authorizing State-based grants that will support evidence-based violence prevention programs. It is critical that we strengthen our laws in order to aid our law enforcement, address the needs of individuals struggling with serious mental illness, and develop proactive strategies for identifying and preventing violence in schools. This Administration is pleased with the progress we have made toward securing our schools over the last few weeks alone, and looks forward to working with the Senate to protect America’s students,”
Rep. Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican and also a gun violence victim said, “Congress actually took action today to not just do something but to start addressing the problem with a strong bill, the Stop School Violence Act, that gives students, teachers and law enforcement more tools to actively identify a potential shooter before tragedy happens.” He added, “What you saw today was a 407 to 10 vote to specifically start addressing the problem to stop school violence. And I think that overwhelming bipartisan vote shows how serious this bill is, and clearly, there are more things that need to be done but this is one of those things that actually gets to the heart of addressing the problem to stop violence before tragedy happens.”
Rep. John Rutherford, a Florida Republican said, “The action which the House just took, I think is an important first step forward in protecting our children, our teachers and other administrations within our schools because it is going to not only harden the target through technology, but most importantly I believe, it’s actually going to provide the tools and education needed by those in our schools to recognize these individuals who have a propensity to become active shooters.”
In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Florida shooting and failures by the FBI and law enforcement to act on warning signs displayed by the gunman before the attack.
“In the wake of the Parkland attack, this committee has an obligation to find out what happened,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, in his opening remarks. “We must hold government to account for its failures, and make sure plans are in place to avoid future tragedies. And we must rally around consensus, evidenced-based solutions that will protect our nation’s most valuable resource — its youth — from violent attacks.”
Both the hearing and the vote happened the same day students across the country held walkouts to commemorate the Parkland shooting anniversary and call for more action gun control measures.
Both of Florida’s senators — Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson — testified at the hearing. The two men have also teamed up on legislation that would encourage states to adopt so-called red flag laws, which would give law enforcement the authority to seize guns from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.
It’s one of many gun control bills proposed by members on both sides of the aisle, but most efforts have largely stalled.
President Donald Trump reiterated his support last weekend for a bill by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut that would encourage states and federal agencies to enter more data into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as “Fix NICS.”
It was first introduced last fall after the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting but it has seen renewed attention since last month’s Florida shooting.
The House bill, the STOP School Violence Act, aims to provide more training for school officials and local law enforcement to respond to mental health crises, as well as, among other things, money to develop anonymous reporting systems for threats and deterrents like metal detectors and locks.
It does not include many of the components of a proposal unveiled by the White House — most notably it does not include any provisions to arm teachers. House Republicans have largely ignored the President’s plan, especially since he publicly declared that the major legislation the GOP-controlled chamber passed in December to loosen concealed carry rules was not something that could pass as part of broader gun legislation.
“This is about schools but it’s not just about schools,” Rubio told reporters Tuesday at a news conference about the Senate version of the bill. “When someone is determined that they’re going to commit an act of violence, it could be in a school, it could be in a mall, it could be in a movie theater, it could be in an airport, it could be at a stadium. So what we’re really focused on here more than anything else is identifying the people that are going to commit a violent act irrespective of where they’re going to commit it and stopping them before they do it.”
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