House passes school safety package

Jeannie Matthews
March 15, 2018

As tens of thousands of students walked out of their schools to demand action to prevent gun violence on Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the first gun-related measure since the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting last month.

The development and operation of school threat assessment and intervention teams that may include coordination with law enforcement agencies and school personnel, and specialized training for school officials in responding to mental health crises.

The STOP (Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing) School Violence Act would develop anonymous telephone and online systems where people could report threats of violence.

President Trump has promised his support for the measure.

"What you saw today was a 407 to 10 vote to specifically start addressing the problem to stop school violence", he said.

"It will not be the only bill, because in the Senate we also have the work that this House did back in December, the National Instant Criminal Background Check", House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, referring to a measure called Fix NICS created to strengthen existing reporting requirements to the background check system.

The vote came one month after the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which a lone gunman killed 17 people. "There are guns all around us".

Meanwhile, the FBI's acting deputy director, David Bowditch, repeated to the Senate Judiciary Committee the department's assertion that the response to warnings about shooter Nikolas Cruz were not sufficiently heeded. "And we must rally around consensus, evidenced-based solutions that will protect our nation's most valuable resource -- its youth -- from violent attacks".

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President Donald Trump supported an increased age limit of 21 years for purchases of assault rifles immediately after the Florida shooting, but backed off the proposal in the weeks since and concentrated his approach on school safety. But it is unclear whether senators will get to the bills before they start a two-week recess on March 26 because other measures may consume floor time.

The house is expected to vote on identical legislation on Wednesday.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said there needs to be ways to intervene when people demonstrate they're risky. The legislation had more than 75 co-sponsors from both parties.

"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.

The Senate hearing focused on the government's response to the shooting and legislative proposals to improve school safety as students from almost 3,000 schools staged National School Walkout events to urge lawmakers to do more to address gun violence.

In the House, lawmakers are set to pass the STOP School Violence Act of 2018, introduced by Congressman John Rutherford, R, a former sheriff from Jacksonville, Florida, and co-sponsored by Congressman Ted Deutch, D, whose district includes Parkland.

Congressional aides said discussions were underway about folding the school safety and background check bills into a government funding bill that lawmakers want to pass by March 23.

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