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Safety Commission Confronts School Shootings by Choosing to Ignore Guns

Although the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School spurred a national student-led movement demanding stricter firearm laws, gun violence in schools has continued. In fact, in the two months that followed the Parkland shooting, there were almost two dozen more school shootings, according to nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety. Furthermore, the organization said there have been 303 school shootings in the U.S. since 2013, which averages out to one school shooting per week. Most do not receive national media attention.

What has been done to stop this deadly violence?

After the Parkland shooting, President Trump appointed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to lead the Federal Commission on School Safety. The Commission was charged with quickly providing meaningful and actionable recommendations to keep students safe at school.

Stricter gun laws may not have prevented all of the recent tragedies, but it is highly probable that more stringent gun measures could have prevented some of these incidents and/or minimized the number of casualties. Yet, last month, DeVos said the commission won’t be looking at the role of guns at all.

Rather than aim at the heart of the issue, DeVos said, “That is not part of the commission’s charge per se. We are actually studying school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school.”

DeVos referred to a program used at a Maryland elementary school called PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports). She said it is a promising technique that looks at discipline in a much more holistic and evidence-based manner. She said the panel will examine 27 different issues around school safety, although she did not elaborate.

A spokeswoman for DeVos later pointed out that the commission does not have the authority to “create or amend gun laws — that is the Congress’ job.”

That kind of passing the buck is the problem. There is absolutely no reason why Secretary DeVos or anyone else associated with the commission can’t submit recommendations regarding gun laws and schools and then allow the elected officials to amend the laws according to the commission’s findings.”

How can the Secretary of Education fail to recognize the role that guns play in our schools? Studying school violence without acknowledging that the students were killed because an individual used weapons designed for mass murder is ridiculous. The use of firearms in school shootings should be at the center of any serious effort to address this national epidemic.

Even President Trump has backpedaled when it comes to challenging deep-pocketed gun manufacturers. The Trump administration is far more concerned with securing NRA support than addressing the root causes of gun violence - namely, our lax gun laws.

Our kids deserve common-sense gun control laws, and that starts with ensuring that guns don’t end up in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Everyone who wants to purchase a firearm should go through a background check and training. It’s time to take meaningful action on gun violence prevention. It is time to send a message to our children that they matter more than providing easy access to guns.

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