Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, waded into the conversation surrounding school safety on Tuesday, proposing two pieces of legislation that would expand the number of armed resources officers on campuses across the country.
Meadows' legislation comes as Congress weighs how to adequately respond to last month's tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The shooting, which left 17 individuals dead and many more injured, has reignited the conversation surrounding school safety. Democratic lawmakers, activists, and even survivors of the shooting have argued the only solution to prevent another school shooting is by instituting more stringent gun control measures.
Meadows, while not supporting vast gun control measures, said he recognizes the opportunity facing Congress and the eagerness for action in the wake of Parkland.
"Our country is in the midst of a defining moment where we have an opportunity to come together and develop common sense solutions to safeguard our children in school," Meadows said.
Meadows' two bills aim to tackle the funding and structural problems that prevent school districts from adequately being able to hire and retain resource officers.
The first bill, the Protect America's Schools Act, would allocate $1.5 billion in supplemental appropriations to the Community Oriented Policing Services’ School Resource Officer program. The legislation would provide school districts with more funding to ensure they could afford to retain resource officers, sworn law enforcement officers responsible for "safety and crime prevention in schools."
A Department of Justice study from 2010 found that there were an estimated 13,056 full-time local police officers serving the country's over 98,000 public schools as school resource officers. The study, which did not account for parochial or private schools, found this to be 1,300 fewer than the number in 2003.
The second bill, the Veterans Securing Schools Act, would cut bureaucratic red tape by giving state and local law enforcement agencies greater flexibility in hiring veterans to serve as school resource officers.
"The two bills I’m introducing today—one to commit $1.5 billion to the school resource officer program, and one to allow state and local employed veterans to serve as school security officers—will go a long way in helping provide schools both adequate resources and trained personnel to protect our kids," Meadows said.
The congressman reiterated that he is opposed to any new gun control measures, arguing they would not prevent educational institutions from becoming "soft targets." He said he is, however, open to alternatives like those he has proposed, which are aimed at enhancing the safety of students and employees on school premises.
"While gun control is not the answer, the best and most effective path forward, I believe, is one that safeguards our schools from becoming ‘soft targets,' or areas with little to stand in the way of someone with bad intentions," Meadows added.