U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testified on Capital Hill Tuesday saying that the role of guns in school violence was “not a priority” of the Federal Commission on School Safety formed after 17 people were murdered in a Parkland, Florida school shooting in February.
In a tweet, the New York Times said
“Betsy DeVos said the federal commission on school safety set up this year after the Parkland, Florida, school massacre will not focus on the role guns play in school violence.”
Betsy DeVos said the federal commission on school safety set up this year after the Parkland, Florida, school massacre will not focus on the role guns play in school violence https://t.co/brxd7SDUJ7
— NYT Politics (@nytpolitics) June 6, 2018
The statement shocked many people since the new commission was formed for the express purpose of stopping future school gun massacres.
DeVos testified in front of a U.S. Senate subcommittee that must approve her departments budget for 2019. She spent most of her time avoiding direct answers to questions she was asked by the senators.
On the Department of Education’s website it says the commission — led by DeVos — was charged with coming up with a range of recommendations to improve school safety, including a “discussion on minimum age for firearms purchases.”
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked a seemingly straightforward question about guns. He asked if the School Safety Commission “would look at the role of firearms as it relates to gun violence in our schools.”
Secretary DeVos then answered by saying “That is not part of the commission’s charge, per se.”
This seemed to upset Senator Leahy who asked incredulously, “So, you’re studying gun violence but not considering the role of guns?”
“We are actually studying school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school,” DeVos responded.
This is a perfect example of an NRA-backed response to gun violence in schools, saying that many things cause such violence, but guns are not one of them.
Continuing his line of questioning, Leahy pressed DeVos by asking whether an 18-year-old high school student should be able to walk into a store and “moments later come out with an AR-15-style gun and hundreds of rounds in ammunition.”
The only response DeVos had to that was to say the topic was “very much a matter for debate.”
The Federal Commission on School Safety also includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. They are expected to issue a report with their recommendations by the end of the year.
Given that all members of the commission were appointed to their jobs by President Donald Trump (who took $30 million in contributions from the NRA) it is not likely that their report will recommend any changes to gun laws.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.