House Passes School Safety Bill But Unlikely to Take More Action on Guns

GOP leaders deflect further action to the Senate since House has passed a background check reporting bill

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., holds a press conference with House GOP leadership in the Capitol on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, as a television displays live video from student protests against gun violence. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It’s not quite one and done, but the bill the House passed Wednesday to provide grants for schools to implement safety protocols and training is likely the last action GOP leaders will take this Congress in response to a recent spate of mass shootings. 

The House passed, 407-10, a bipartisan measure by Florida Republican John Rutherford called the Student, Teacher’s Officer’s Prevention (STOP) School Violence Act.

The bill would authorize $50 million in grant funding for schools to conduct training to prevent student violence, set up anonymous reporting systems for threats and implement other safety protocols. The bill does not appropriate the $50 million, but some of those funds could be included in the upcoming fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill or fiscal 2019 appropriations measures. 

“The best way to keep our students and teachers safe is to give them the tools and the training to recognize the warning signs to prevent violence from ever entering our school grounds,” Rutherford said. “And this bill aims to do just that.”

Watch: Sights and Sounds from #NationalWalkoutDay Protest on Hill

House GOP leaders signaled that they have no plans to pass any more legislation to address mass shootings.

“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 designed to strengthen existing reporting requirements to the background check system.

That measure was crafted as a response to the mass shooting at a Texas church in which the gunman had a history of domestic violence that the military was aware of but did not report to NICS.

A Senate version of that bill has enough support to pass, based on the more than 60 senators who have signed on as co-sponsors. But the House version includes a provision to allow people with concealed carry permits to carry to their guns across state lines that would prevent it from passing in the Senate. 

Nonetheless, House GOP leaders continue to point to the Senate as the place for further action.

“We sent legislation to the Senate in December. Hopefully the Senate can act on that legislation,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Wednesday before the vote. “In the meantime, we believe that we can make great progress on the Stop School Violence Act, which we’re passing today.”

Republicans’ touted the school safety grants and background check reporting measures as a sign of their party’s interest in stopping gun violence on the same day that students from across the country organized a walk-out to call attention to the topic.

Local students gathered on the West Front of the Capitol with Democratic lawmakers to demand Congress do more to prevent gun violence, like passing a more comprehensive background checks measure that would ensure people purchasing firearms online or at gun shows are subject to the same review as those purchasing in stores. 

“You know this Republican-controlled Congress has lost its way when we have high school students out on the steps begging Republicans to stop sitting on their hands and do something — do something productive,” Rep. Linda Sanchez, vice chairwoman of the Democratic Caucus, said after the walk-out.

The California Democrat called the bill the House passed Wednesday “a step in the right direction” but said it is not gun violence prevention.

“That alone is not going to prevent the death toll from rising,” Sanchez said. 

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