WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), and Lucy McBath (GA-06) announced the School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act. The legislation will allow the public and policy makers to gain a complete and accurate picture of gun violence in and around our school campuses, and provide actionable data to build effective strategies to prevent bloodshed at America’s places of learning.
The School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act would create a definition for ‘school shooting,’ which does not exist in federal law. Currently, policy makers rely on media reports of ‘school shootings,’ which can vary widely. With a standard definition, lawmakers would have a reliable way to measure incidents, trends, and the impact of reforms and strategies designed to save lives.
This bill would also direct the Department of Education to consult with the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to produce comprehensive annual reports on school safety indicators, such as shooting and fatality statistics, shooter and victim demographics, shooter motivations, the types of firearms and ammunition acquired and used, and more. It would also track prevention efforts, such as building designs, and communication and response plans. Without that, a true understanding of the problem remains as elusive as the best solutions we need to finally end it.
"Gun violence prevention is a top concern for me, and my constituents. Every day we continue to see these tragedies occur impacting the safety of our schools. In 2018 and 2019, there were 24 and 25 school shootings respectively. The School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act is a key prevention measure providing the framework to obtain the data needed to be pro-active," said Hayes. "By analyzing the history of school shootings, we can identify shooting and fatality statistics; shooter and victim demographics, shooter motivations; the firearms and ammunition acquired and used; and maintain a database, so we can attempt to get to the core of why this phenomenon continues to occur."
“We will never loosen the chokehold opponents of gun safety have on solving this public health crisis until we fully understand the carnage that firearms inflict on Americans, especially on our school campuses,” said Wasserman Schultz. “The more we know about the dangers that guns pose to our classrooms, the more likely we are to prevent the next Marjorie Stoneman Douglas or Sandy Hook massacre. Protecting students and teachers, and understanding the real dangers they face from firearms, is yet one more political space where all sides can agree that we need to make swift, substantial progress. We just need the data to help identify trends and gaps, and then we can work toward solving it. This legislation would build a sturdy foundation to make schools safer.”
“School shootings and mass shootings have become far too common in our country,” said McBath. “There is not currently a federal definition for a ‘school shooting,’ yet far too many of our young people have witnessed one firsthand. We must understand the extent of this heartbreaking tragedy before we can find the solutions necessary to solve it, and I thank all those who continue to stand with us in the fight to end gun violence.”
Various gun safety and education groups are also backing this critical legislation:
“Congress must take a comprehensive and holistic approach to keep youth safe from gun violence. Ensuring we have the best data possible on violence in schools is necessary to save lives,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and father of Daniel who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “We applaud Reps. Hayes, Wasserman Schultz and McBath for introducing this critical legislation.”
“The School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act is a step in the right direction as the first piece of federal legislation to define and produce data on school shootings,” said Elizabeth Brown, principal of Forest High School in Ocala, FL, and a member of the NASSP Principal Recovery Network. “I know from firsthand experience how devastating these school shootings can be — their reverberations impact not only students, staff, and educators, but entire communities. As school leaders, it’s critical that we have up to date information that will allow us to make the best decisions to ensure our schools are the safe and welcoming places they need to be.”
“School shootings are not an inevitable part of American life. In fact, they are avoidable tragedies. Instead of traumatizing our children with active shooter drills, we should find solutions to prevent gun violence in our nation’s schools,” said Adzi Vokhiwa, Giffords’ Federal Affairs Director. “The School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act would help do just that by creating the federal framework for collecting and sharing data about school shootings, including establishing a federal definition for school shootings and ensuring regular reporting on these incidents. We thank Congresswomen Wasserman Schultz, McBath, and Hayes for their leadership in introducing this bill and working to keep our students, educators, and communities safe from gun violence.”
Congresswoman Jahana Hayes sits on the Committees on Education & Labor and Agriculture and proudly represents Connecticut’s 5th District. She was a public school teacher in Connecticut for more than 15 years and was recognized in 2016 as the National Teacher of the Year.