WASHINGTON — Exactly a month after a Florida mass shooting that claimed the lives of 17 students and adults, the House passed a bipartisan bill on Wednesday to fund training and security measures to make schools safer.
Although the bill received overwhelming support, it sidestepped the more controversial demands for gun control.
The House voted 407-10 to pass the bill as students nationwide walked out of schools in a show of force for background checks and strict gun measures in the wake of mass shootings that have shocked communities.
All members of the Nevada congressional delegation voted to pass the bill.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the measure passed by the House would help identify threats before violence occurs.
Republicans and Democrats sponsored the STOP School Violence Act, filed by Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., that would authorize $500 million over 10 years to train instructors and administrators to detect warning signs and prevent future school shootings.
But critics say the bill falls short on meaningful gun control measures that Democrats have sought to curb mass shootings in Parkland, Florida, Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Las Vegas.
Hours before the vote, students were outside the Capitol to protest the lack of congressional action on gun control proposals that they claim could have prevented the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., a former professor, rallied with students to call for “more measures to keep firearms out of dangerous hands.”
President Donald Trump supported an increased age limit of 21 years for purchases of assault rifles immediately after the Florida shooting, but backed off the proposal in the weeks since and concentrated his approach on school safety.
Trump supports the bill passed in the House, which now awaits Senate action on companion legislation.
“This administration is pleased with the progress we have made toward securing our schools over the last few weeks alone, and looks forward to working with the Senate to protect America’s students,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is an original co-sponsor of the Senate bill.
Heller said the bill assures “Nevada’s kids — and their parents — that we are committed to supporting a coordinated effort to stop school violence.”
But the Senate has been slow to move on legislation, even on bills with bipartisan support, like the school security bill or the so-called Fix NICS legislation that would strengthen reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System co-sponsored by both Nevada senators.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., filed the Fix NICS bill following the Sutherland Springs church shooting last November.
Although Cornyn has secured 70 co-sponsors, more than the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass the bill, Democrats have pressed for other gun control measures that include a ban on assault weapons.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., appeared with students outside the Capitol at the rally to protest inaction by lawmakers to address gun violence.
In a floor speech, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., a co-sponsor of a bill to ban assault weapons as well as Cornyn’s Fix NICS bill, said gun violence has “become all too common for our kids in schools and for Americans across the country.”
Cortez Masto recalled the Oct. 1 tragedy in Las Vegas when 58 people were killed and 500 injured “at the hands of a madman with an assault rifle.”
In the years since the Sandy Hook shooting, Cortez Masto said 846 Nevadans have been killed by gun violence, including 50 children “who will never get the chance to grow up and graduate from high school.”
Cortez Masto then read aloud the names of those 50 Nevada children.
Missed warning signs
The House vote came as the FBI announced it is doubling the number of supervisors assigned to review tips received from the public about possible threats of mass shootings or other violence.
Deputy FBI Director David Bowdich told a Senate committee that the agency “could have and should have done more” to investigate information it received prior to the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The FBI received at least two credible tips that the suspect in the Florida school shooting had a “desire to kill” and access to guns and could be plotting an attack, but agents failed to investigate.
“While we will never know if any such investigative activity would have prevented this tragedy, we clearly should have done more,” Bowdich told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
— Associated Press