The U.S. Department of Education should create a strategy to encourage school districts to provide parents information about safely storing firearms, in the wake of shootings at a Michigan school last month that left four students dead, scores of federal lawmakers say.
In a Wednesday letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, more than 100 Democratic members of Congress said such guidance would bolster a “critical intervention” to help prevent school shootings. The lawmakers also said the department should provide schools with guidance about the best ways to reach parents effectively.
Citing data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the lawmakers said that 76 percent of school shooters used a gun they took from the home of a parent or close relative, and that in nearly half of those incidents, the gun was either easily accessible or not secured.
“The Biden administration supports bold action to address gun violence, and we need that leadership again to keep our schools safe. Keeping guns away from kids should be neither partisan nor controversial,” said 18 members of the Senate and 101 House lawmakers. “We have seen many school districts take action to provide information on secure storage to their families, but far too many have not.”
The school shootings in Oxford, Mich., have once again left school leaders, policymakers, and others searching for answers about how to improve school safety and make such incidents less likely.
A growing number of schools recently have used the strategy of reminding parents to secure their guns; earlier this month, for example, Atlanta schools pledged to work with community groups on highlighting the importance of safe gun storage. School officials who’ve used this approach say that it’s a simple strategy that can help fill in the communication gap left by federal and state governments in many instances, although it doesn’t change or affect gun laws already on the books that cover local jurisdictions.
Roughly 30 states, along with the District of Columbia, have laws essentially designed to prevent children’s access to firearms. These statutes vary widely. Research from 2018 in the Journal of Urban Health found that 4.6 million children live in households where loaded guns aren’t locked away.
In 2018, President Donald Trump signed the STOP School Violence Act into law following the 2018 school shootings in Parkland., Fla. It provides funding for threat assessments, training, and other activities. However, school shootings like those in Parkland and in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, have not led to significant changes in how the federal government approaches gun control.
Last March, the U.S. Secret Service published an analysis of school violence, including students who plotted violence at schools. The report notes that “many of the student plotters had access to weapons, including unimpeded access to firearms.” The Secret Service also said that school resource officers “play an important role” in preventing school violence.
Democrats have been debating the extent to which law enforcement and school resource officers should be at the center of effort to make schools safer and prevent violence.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., one of the lead lawmakers behind Wednesday’s letter to Cardona, has supported efforts strengthen background checks for firearms purchases and other gun control measures. He has also pushed legislation to remove police officers from schools.
Trump formed a federal school safety committee in 2018 after the Parkland shootings that was led by former education Secretary Betsy DeVos. That committee suggested that schools study whether to train and arm certain staff—echoing a position taken by Trump—and recommended that DeVos scrap school discipline guidance from the Obama administration, which DeVos ultimately did.
A 15-year-old student at Oxford High School, has been charged as an adult with murder and other crimes stemming from the Nov. 30 shootings in Michigan that also left six students and a teacher wounded. His parents have also been charged with involuntary manslaughter as part of the case. They have been accused of giving their son access to a gun and failing to intervene.
Law enforcement officials have also criticized school officials for not taking sufficient action before the shooting.