An administration official told Senate lawmakers this week the president’s School Safety Commission won’t focus on the role firearms play in perpetuating violence.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, chair of the commission established in the wake of the Parkland massacre, said the group’s primary mission will center on bolstering safety, dodging a direct line of questioning from Democratic Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy about the connection between guns and mass shootings in public schools.
“That is not part of the commission’s charge, per se,” DeVos said.
“I see,” Leahy responded. “So, you’re studying gun violence but not considering the role of guns.”
“We’re actually studying student school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school,” DeVos said.
The exchange came two weeks after the commission’s first meeting, where members and school shooting survivors reflected on the impact of the attacks and lessons learned over the last two decades.
“In order to move forward, we must take a hard look back,” DeVos said during the May 17 meeting. “We convened this meeting of experts and survivors to help give us a clear-eyed look at what has gone wrong in the past, the lessons learned and areas where we continue to fall short as we work to keep our nation’s students and teachers safe at school.”
President Trump unveiled a four-pronged plan of defense against future school shootings in March, focusing on “hardening” schools, improving background checks, increasing access to mental health services and examining the impact of future policy proposals on curbing school violence.
DeVos’s comments, however, drew criticism from some of the administration’s harshest critics, convinced the commission is nothing but a smoke screen.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Brady Campaign Co-President Avery Gardiner. “Sec. DeVos is clearly more concerned with bears in schools than guns. This is straight out of the NRA playbook — it’s about doors, it’s about video games, it’s about pornography. For the love of God — it’s about easy access to guns.”
“What we heard yesterday only confirms what we already knew,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “The Trump administration is far more concerned with securing NRA support than addressing the root causes of gun violence — namely, our lax gun laws.”