House Passes Legislation to Enhance School Safety and Security; Mast Introduces First Bipartisan Bill To Address Assault Weapon Sales
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Brian Mast (FL-18) today took action to strengthen community safety by passing the STOP School Violence Act and introducing two new bills, including a 60-day prohibition on the sale of firearms similar to the AR-15 while failures by the FBI and state agencies, as well as the background check system, are examined and a long-term, comprehensive solution is negotiated. Rep. Mast, who was a co-sponsor of the STOP School Violence Act, today also announced his support for five additional bills to strengthen community safety.
“Our schools should be as safe as the halls of Congress and today we moved one step closer to that goal by passing the STOP School Violence Act,” Rep. Mast said. “At the same time, we must recognize that this issue is not limited to our schools. We must make sure that our concerts, night clubs, churches and other community areas are just as safe. We won’t accomplish this without a comprehensive approach that addresses security, mental health and gun violence. That’s why today I’m introducing the first bipartisan bill to address the sale of assault weapons by putting a 60-day pause on the sale of firearms like the AR-15 while President Trump’s task force evaluates school safety and Congress works on a comprehensive solution to address this community safety crisis.”
Legislation Passed To Strengthen School Security
The House of Representatives today passed a school security bill, introduced by Representative John Rutherford (FL-4) and co-sponsored by Rep. Mast, called the STOP School Violence Act. The bipartisan bill creates a grant program to train students, teachers, school officials and local law enforcement on how to identify and intervene early when signs of violence arise. The bill also creates a coordinated reporting system and implements Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) & Secret Service-based school threat assessment protocols to prevent school shootings before they happen.
The STOP School Violence Act also included another bill co-sponsored by Rep. Mast, called the Securing Our Schools Act. That bill, introduced by Representative Mike Bost (IL-12), improves school safety by authorizing grants for schools to purchase alert buttons with a direct link to contact local law enforcement in case of an emergency.
Last month, following the tragedy in Parkland, Fla., Rep. Mast called for the passage of both of these bills.
Mast Introduces Two Bills To Reduce Gun Violence
Mass Violence Prevention Reform Act
Following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he is creating a task force to evaluate school safety, Rep. Mast’s bipartisan Mass Violence Prevention Reform Act will institute a 60-day pause on the sale of all “gas-operated semiautomatic firearms with a rifled bore,” which would include firearms like the AR-15 and AK-47. The bill would not prohibit the sale of shotguns, commonly used for hunting, or most handguns, such as those carried by lawful conceal-and-carry permit holders. The goal of the bill is to ensure that the next would-be shooter is not able to purchase firearms like the AR-15 while the President and Congress continue to work on a long-term solution.
Additionally, The Mass Violence Prevention Reform Act directs the Department of Health and Human Services, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to submit recommendations to Congress defining assault weapons and classifying firearms based on lethality. The President can, at his discretion, extend the sales moratorium until 30-days after Congress receives the report or October, 2020, whichever occurs first.
The Mass Violence Prevention Reform Act is the only bipartisan bill introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate that addresses access to assault weapons. The bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2) and Peter King (NY-2). Text of the legislation is available here.
Rep. Mast also continues to believe that any long-term solution to this crisis must address access to military-style assault weapons, as well as other efforts to reduce gun violence and strengthen community safety.
Behavioral Awareness Training Act
The Behavioral Awareness Training Act requires that anyone applying for a federal license to sell firearms must complete a behavioral detection awareness training course. Furthermore, the bill directs the Attorney General to develop the online course that will train firearm sellers—utilizing the best science and practices available—in a way that will help them identify suspicious behavior from potential customers before selling them a firearm.
Right now, firearm sellers have broad discretion to refuse sales to potential purchasers, such as in instances where buyers appear to be acting suspiciously or erratically, but training on how to identify this activity is not included as part of the licensing process. Rather than leaving sellers to act on a hunch alone, the Behavioral Awareness Training Act would give them a data-based training to detect suspicious behavior, which could increase the number of criminals stopped by sellers from purchasing a weapon and help decrease discriminatory actions against law-abiding firearm purchasers. The bill maintains existing law that exempts sellers from liability as a result of decisions made based on this training.
The bill is co-sponsored by Representative Tom Rooney (FL-17). Text of the legislation is available here.
Mast Co-Sponsors Five Additional Bills
Rep. Mast also announced his support for five additional bills that are all commonsense solutions to keep families safe:
Gun Violence Restraining Order Act (H.R. 2598)
This bipartisan bill incentivizes states to enable family members or law enforcement officials to go to a court to seek a “gun violence prevention order” to temporarily stop a person who poses a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing a firearm. The bill also ensures that a court can issue a “gun violence prevention warrant,” allowing law enforcement to take temporary possession of firearms that are in an individual’s possession if the court determines that the individual poses a threat to themselves or others. Furthermore, the bill ensures that law enforcement makes full use of all existing state and local firearm databases when assessing a tip, warning or request from a concerned family member or other close associate.
Raise the Age Act (H.R. 5090)
This bipartisan bill which would create parity between the two classes of firearms by raising the age to purchase a semiautomatic centerfire rifle that has or can accept a magazine of five rounds or more to 21, while providing an exemption for active duty military and full-time law enforcement officers. The legislation also includes a requirement for the FBI to submit a report on the operations of the Public Access Tip Line and recommendations on improvements.
Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act (H.R. 3027)
This bipartisan bill makes two updates to federal law to address existing loopholes that make it easy for perpetrators of dating violence and those convicted of misdemeanor stalking to legally access firearms. The bill would 1) state that the term "intimate partner" includes a dating partner and any other person subject to a protection order under state domestic or family violence law and 2) expand the term "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" to include the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, by a current or former intimate partner. The bill makes it a crime to knowingly sell or dispose of a firearm to a person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of stalking. The bill also makes it a crime for such convicted stalker to receive or possess a firearm.
The School Resource Officer Assessment Act (H.R. 5242)
This bill directs the U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of Education to gather data regarding the number and status of school resource officers assigned to each public school.
The School Watch and Training Act (H.R. 5243)
This bill establishes national training standards for school resource officers in conjunction with the Department of Justice and the Department of Education. Those standards would include active shooter training and other best practices to ensure school safety.
Rep. Mast had previously announced his support for six bills addressing gun violence, mental health and school safety. Two of those bills, the Stop School Violence Act and the Securing Our Schools Act, passed the House of Representatives today.