Serving in the military, I saw death firsthand. I held my fellow soldiers as the last breath went out of them. I had my uniform stained with their blood. That experience gives you a perspective on life and the value of humanity that few others can match. Our students and teachers should never have had to have this tragic experience.
As Members of Congress, we weren’t sent to Washington to do what’s easy — we were sent here to take action, even when the conversation is difficult and the odds look long. We must unite to prevent this from happening ever again. We must unite to save lives.
This will take a comprehensive approach that includes evaluating access to firearms, school safety, law enforcement failures and mental illness.
We must be open to considering who can purchase firearms and what kind of firearms are available for purchase. I am committed to working with anyone — Republicans and Democrats — who is willing to do the hard, bipartisan problem solving needed to come up with a definition that can keep communities safe, while also not casting law-abiding recreational gun owners as criminals.
While that discussion happens, I am asking the President to implement an immediate pause on the sale of AR-15 weapons so not one more person dies as a result of being shot with an AR-15 while Congress determines the best way to define assault weapons.
I am also calling on Congressional leadership to vote immediately on already written bipartisan legislation to increase school safety, address the role of mental illness and prevent gun violence. These bills include:
H.R. 4240 – Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act
This bill expands the existing background check system for gun sales to cover all commercial firearm sales, including gun shows. The bill also amends the NICS Improvement Act of 2007 to incentivize states to improve reporting of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill.
H.R. 3999 – To amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit the manufacture, possession, or transfer of any part or combination of parts that is designed and functions to increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but does not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun, and for other purposes.
This bill prohibits the manufacture, sale and use of “bump stocks” and similar devices. The legislation would also make violation of the law a felony and allow for increased penalties for offenders through a review of federal sentencing guidelines.
H.R. 1478 – Gun Violence Research Act
This bill eliminates the Dickey Amendment and expresses the sense of Congress that no limitations should be imposed on the authority of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to sponsor evidence-based intramural and extramural research that examines the causes of gun violence and identifies methods to reduce gun-related fatalities and injuries, consistent with the Second Amendment to the Constitution and other constitutional protections.
H.R. 4909 – STOP School Violence Act of 2018
This bill amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to reauthorize through FY2028 the Community Oriented Policing Services Secure Our Schools grant program. The program has not been funded by Congress since 2010. The legislation would expand the program to $50 million in federal resources to improve security measures in schools, training for staff and students as well as tools like metal detectors and locks.
H.R. 4811 – Securing Our Schools Act of 2018
This bill aims to improve student safety by helping schools acquire alert buttons to contact law enforcement in an emergency. The SOS Act would provide a more immediate method of notifying law enforcement and first responders in case of a medical emergency, active school shooter incident, or natural disaster. It would authorize the Department of Justice to offer grants under a 4 year pilot program to local school districts for buying and installing SOS buttons in classrooms. Each grant awarded under the program would cover 75% of equipment purchase and installation cost (up to $200,000).
H.R. 2913 – Mental Health in Schools Act of 2017
This bill would create a competitive grant program which would allow the receiving school districts to hire mental health professionals by providing $200 million in competitive grants of up to $1 million each. It expands the scope of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Program by providing on-site licensed mental health professionals in schools across the country. Funding will be distributed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which will set guidelines and measure the outcomes of the funded programs.
These bipartisan bills are a good start, but more must continue to be done. Inaction is not an option.