Confronting school violence

Published 10:56 am Monday, March 19, 2018

Today, school systems around the country — including the First Congressional District — will commemorate School Safety Day. Wednesday marks the one month anniversary of the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and my heart breaks for the victims and their families. Schools should be safe havens for our children, which is why I strongly supported legislation passed by the House this week to provide school systems with additional tools to help keep students safe. As a father and grandfather with two school-aged grandchildren, keeping our schools as safe as possible is a duty I take very seriously.
This week, the House took firm action to protect school children by passing H.R. 4909, the Student, Teachers and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act. This bipartisan legislation provides grant funding to train students, teachers, school officials and local law enforcement to identify and intervene when students show warning signs of violence. Our intention is to stop this senseless violence before it can happen. The bill will also provide additional technology and equipment to increase school security like: anonymous reporting systems; locks on classroom doors; and other infrastructure improvements to protect students. This is a strong first step toward ensuring schools can remain places that foster learning and growth.
I also believe there are additional steps we can take to improve compliance with current laws to ensure firearms aren’t getting into the wrong hands, and I am confident we can do this without infringing on the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. Following his meeting with families and victims of school shootings, President Trump earlier this week put forward a multi-part proposal to help increase school security. Some of the ideas proposed include hardening our schools; strengthening background checks and closing loopholes; further action to reform our country’s mental health care system; and establishing a federal commission on school safety. In fact, the president implemented one of his recommendations through regulation by taking action to ban bump stocks, which make semiautomatic weapons fire at the rate of an automatic weapon and were used by the attacker in the Las Vegas shooting. I am still reviewing the president’s proposal in full, but I am glad the president is taking seriously the responsibility to help make children safer at schools without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens.
One of the proposals the president offered was part of a bipartisan bill I supported to ensure federal and state law enforcement agencies are complying with existing laws and reporting criminal records to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The Fix NICS Act, which was coupled with a commonsense concealed carry reciprocity measure in the House, will penalize agencies that fail to report relevant records to the FBI; incentivize reporting; and direct federal funds to make sure domestic violence offenders are reported to the FBI so they cannot purchase a firearm. I believe the very first step we should take is to ensure those wishing to purchase a firearm are complying with existing laws, and the Fix NICS Act will do just that.
The safety of our students is one of the most pressing issues before Congress right now, and as the House considers additional action to help keep our nation’s schools safe, I look forward to hearing from East Tennesseans about what they think would be most effective to keep our children and grandchildren safe at school. I encourage East Tennesseans to use this link or continue reaching out to my office to share their views on this important issue with me.
Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.

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