Today, in an event with Everytown volunteers and experts, Reps. Lucy McBath (D-GA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and Ted Deutch (D-FL) announced the introduction of the School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act. Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) is also introducing this legislation. The School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act would formalize the process by which the Department of Education and the Department of Justice track and report out on school shootings in America. Everytown for Gun Safety started tracking incidents of gunfire on school grounds in 2013 in an effort to help prevent a uniquely American strain of tragedies. Our research has found that gun fire on school grounds mirrors the larger gun violence picture in the country, with Black students being impacted at disproportionately high rates.
Tens of thousands of students are exposed to violence in their schools each year and, even for those that survive, the experience leaves lasting psychological scars they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Children exposed to violence, crime, and abuse — whether at school, at home, or in their communities — are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol; suffer from depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder; fail or have difficulties in school; and engage in criminal activity.
“The only thing more troubling than what we do know about the devastating consequences of gun violence in schools is how much we don’t know about this American epidemic,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “This bill represents a major step forward when it comes to identifying the patterns and risk factors that lead to school shootings, and we applaud Reps. McBath, Wasserman Schultz, and Hayes for introducing it.”
“Gun violence in our schools has moved a generation of our kids to have to demand the bare minimum: that they be safe at school,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “This bill, led by Reps. McBath, Wasserman Schultz, and Hayes will put the weight of the federal government into understanding and preventing school shootings going forward.”
“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 Rep. 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 Rep. Lucy 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.”
“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 proactive,” said Rep. Jahana 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.”Last summer, Everytown released a comprehensive report on preventing gun violence in American schools. Among the recommendations, Everytown listed:
- Passing extreme risk laws that create a legal process by which law enforcement, family members, and, in some states, educators can petition a court to prevent a person from having access to firearms when there is evidence that they are at serious risk of harming themselves or others.
- Enacting secure firearm storage laws and enforcing them. Studies show that these laws can have a positive impact on preventing gun violence, particularly unintentional shootings and firearm suicide.
- Raising the minimum age to purchase assault rifles to 21,which data shows is an effective way to reduce homicides, as 18-20 year olds are four times as likely to commit homicides with a gun than adults 21 and over. There’s no reason a high school student should be able to purchase a high-powered firearm on their way home from school.
- Requiring background checks on all gun sales is key to enforcing the gun laws we have on the books to keep guns out of dangerous hands. Without background checks, guns are easily accessible in the online and gun show markets, no questions asked.
More than 1.5 million students across the country now live in a school district that requires schools to educate parents about the critical importance of secure firearm storage in keeping schools and students safe, thanks to the advocacy work of volunteers with Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action. They’ve successfully urged school boards across the country to enact such notification policies, including school districts in Vermont, Texas, California, Arizona, Oregon and Colorado. Secure firearm storage in the home is one of the most effective tools to prevent gun violence in schools.