Democrats say more information needed to understand and solve school shootings. So far, no Republicans agree.

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Oct 04, 2021 12:50 PM

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Congressional Democrats said Monday gathering more information about the causes and impact of school shootings is essential to coming up with solutions to help curb gun violence in schools.

So far, they haven’t found any Republicans willing to go along with their proposal to collect more data.

“We don’t really know how bad this grizzly picture is. We don’t know the scope of the problem,” U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a video news conference, touting legislation she said would “provide actionable data to develop policies and strategies to curb some of this preventable bloodshed at America’s places of learning.”

Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch, both South Florida Democrats, and Lucy McBath, a Georgia Democrat, detailed legislation that would require compilation of extensive data about school shootings.

They were joined by Catherine Allen, who was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the day of the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre where 17 people died and 17 others were injured.

“As students around the country return to school, they face the threat of rising gun violence,” Allen said. “We’re going backwards, not forwards. And we can’t fix the problem until we understand it.”

Deutch and Wasserman Schultz, who together represent most of Broward County, said the School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act would:

  • Create a standard definition of a school shooting, providing a way to measure incidents, trends and the impact of any reforms. Wasserman Schultz said policymakers currently have no reliable compilation about the number and scope of school shootings; what data there is often relies on news media reports.
  • Require the U.S. departments of education, justice and health and human services to prepare detailed reports about statistics, including the demographics and motivations of shooters, the types of firearms and ammunition used.
  • Track prevention efforts, such as building designs and communication and response plans in an attempt to figure out what strategies actually work to reduce the potential carnage from shootings at schools.

Without the information, Wasserman Schultz said understanding the problem and figuring out the best solutions would remain elusive.

“And without this data, those that push back against sensible and obvious reforms to prevent further gun violence will continue to cherry-pick statistics to maintain the status quo, which is an ugly reality,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Until we truly know what we’re up against, we’ll never loosen the vise-grip that gun safety opponents have on solving this public health crisis.”

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The Democrats need Republican support to get the legislation through the House and Senate and to President Joe Biden’s desk. So far there’s no indication that’s happening.

Deutch said there is bipartisan support for some proposals to change gun laws, including enhanced background checks. And he said he expects continued support from Biden.

But he didn’t offer a path for legislation to pass the Senate, where Republican votes are needed to get to the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster from anyone seeking to block the legislation.

Wasserman Schultz said she’s optimistic about chances in the Democratic-controlled House, where a version of the legislation won committee approval in the last Congress. The House Education & Labor Committee approved the measure on Sept. 18, 2019, on a 27-22 vote, with all the “yes” votes coming from Democrats and all the “no” votes from Republicans.

“There shouldn’t be any opposition to this legislation, because why would people who actually want to solve the problem be afraid of collecting information?” Wasserman Schultz said. “Unfortunately, at the moment we are only attracting Democratic support.”

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