The more we know about the dangers that guns pose to our classrooms, the more likely we are to prevent the next Marjorie Stoneman Douglas or Sandy Hook massacre. This legislation would build a sturdy foundation to make schools safer.
Washington D.C. – Today, U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Jahana Hayes (CT-05) and Lucy McBath (GA-06) announced that the School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act has been filed, legislation that will allow the public and policy makers to gain a complete and accurate picture of gun violence in and around our school campuses, and provide actionable data to build effective strategies to prevent bloodshed at America’s places of learning.
Crucially, this law would create a definition for ‘school shooting,’ which does not exist in federal law. Currently, policy makers rely on media reports of ‘school shootings,’ which can vary widely. With a standard definition, lawmakers would have a reliable way to measure incidents, trends, and the impact of reforms and strategies designed to save lives.
This bill would also direct the Department of Education to consult with the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to produce comprehensive annual reports on school safety indicators, such as shooting and fatality statistics, shooter and victim demographics, shooter motivations, the types of firearms and ammunition acquired and used, and more. It would also track prevention efforts, such as building designs, and communication and response plans. Without that, a true understanding of the problem remains as elusive as the best solutions we need to finally end it.
“We will never loosen the chokehold opponents of gun safety have on solving this public health crisis until we fully understand the carnage that firearms inflict on Americans, especially on our school campuses, “ said Wasserman Schultz. “The more we know about the dangers that guns pose to our classrooms, the more likely we are to prevent the next Marjorie Stoneman Douglas or Sandy Hook massacre. Protecting students and teachers, and understanding the real dangers they face from firearms, is yet one more political space where all sides can agree that we need to make swift, substantial progress. We just need the data to help identify trends and gaps, and then we can work toward solving it. This legislation would build a sturdy foundation to make schools safer.”
"Gun violence prevention is a top concern for me, and my constituents. Every day we continue to see these tragedies occur impacting the safety of our schools. In 2018 and 2019, there were 24 and 25 school shootings respectively.The School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act is a key prevention measure providing the framework to obtain the data needed to be pro-active," said Congresswoman Hayes. "By analyzing the history of school shootings, we can identify shooting and fatality statistics; shooter and victim demographics, shooter motivations; the firearms and ammunition acquired and used; and maintain a database, so we can attempt to get to the core of why this phenomenon continues to occur."
“School shootings and mass shootings have become far too common in our country,” said McBath. “There is not currently a federal definition for a ‘school shooting,’ yet far too many of our young people have witnessed one firsthand. We must understand the extent of this heartbreaking tragedy before we can find the solutions necessary to solve it, and I thank all those who continue to stand with us in the fight to end gun violence.”
Various gun safety and education groups are also backing this critical legislation:
“Congress must take a comprehensive and holistic approach to keep youth safe from gun violence. Ensuring we have the best data possible on violence in schools is necessary to save lives,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and father of Daniel who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “We applaud Reps. Hayes, Wasserman Schultz and McBath for introducing this critical legislation.”
“The School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act is a step in the right direction as the first piece of federal legislation to define and produce data on school shootings,” said Elizabeth Brown, principal of Forest High School in Ocala, FL, and a member of the NASSP Principal Recovery Network. “I know from firsthand experience how devastating these school shootings can be — their reverberations impact not only students, staff and educators, but entire communities. As school leaders, it’s critical that we have up to date information that will allow us to make the best decisions to ensure our schools are the safe and welcoming places they need to be.”
“School shootings are not an inevitable part of American life. In fact, they are avoidable tragedies. Instead of traumatizing our children with active shooter drills, we should find solutions to prevent gun violence in our nation’s schools,” said Adzi Vokhiwa, Giffords’ Federal Affairs Director. “The School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act would help do just that by creating the federal framework for collecting and sharing data about school shootings, including establishing a federal definition for school shootings and ensuring regular reporting on these incidents. We thank Congresswomen Wasserman Schultz, McBath, and Hayes for their leadership in introducing this bill and working to keep our students, educators, and communities safe from gun violence.”
“Keeping our children and educators safe from gun violence in schools requires comprehensive solutions, which must be bolstered by additional data and analysis from the federal government,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Moms Demand Action and our grassroots army of volunteers is proud to support this common sense legislation and grateful for the continued leadership by gun sense champions Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lucy McBath, and Jahana Hayes.”
“I will never forget the strange feeling of my first school shooter drill my senior year of high school in Pembroke Pines, FL, and how it felt to think about preventing my own murder. It was only the day before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting 23 miles away,” said Bella D’Alacio, policy associate at March For Our Lives. “When we talk about common sense gun violence prevention, bills like this are exactly what we mean. Defining ‘school shootings’ should be a no brainer – to ensure our government is empowered and resourced in order to prevent horrific shootings and generations of trauma. I am grateful to Reps. Wasserman Schultz, Hayes and McBath for their leadership and hope Congress will not hesitate to pass this legislation.”