Rubio, Hatch Push Stop School Violence Act in Response to Parkland Shooting

'Our schools are woefully unprepared to prevent an attack before it occurs'

Sen. Orrin Hatch / Getty Images
March 6, 2018

Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) introduced the Stop School Violence Act on Monday as a response to the Parkland shooting.

The bill would provide grants for training law enforcement and school staff in how to spot warning signs of school violence and intervene, grants for new technology like an anonymous alert system and advanced door locks, funding for crisis intervention teams, and funding for more cooperation between schools and local law enforcement. The senators said the bill is a direct response to the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 dead. They said the measure could prevent future attacks of the same nature.

"Our schools are woefully unprepared to prevent an attack before it occurs," Rubio said in a statement. "Furthermore, during my visit to the site of the attack and my follow-up meeting with teachers at the school, I learned of various changes to school facilities and practices which could have stopped this attack or improved the response. Therefore, I will be joining Senator Orrin Hatch in introducing the Stop School Violence Act. If passed, this law would provide federal grants to states to: strengthen school security, provide school training to identify threats, and create school threat assessment and crisis intervention teams (like the successful program in Los Angeles) that in coordination with law enforcement agencies and school personnel identify students or former students who may pose a threat of violence and intervene to stop them before they act."

Hatch said the legislation is focused on finding solutions to school violence that can gather the support of enough lawmakers to pass and become law.

"To keep our children safe from harm, there is no panacea, no one legislative solution," he said on the Senate floor. "And it disheartens me when I hear talk about what can't be done. It's time to focus on what can be done. Fortunately, solutions on the state level—including in my home state of Utah—can help show us the way forward.

"We won't solve the problem of school violence overnight, but with incremental efforts—such as the legislation I have proposed—we can make a lasting difference and even save thousands of lives. So let's not delay any further. We owe it to our children, and to all of those affected by gun violence, to take decisive action in those areas where we do agree."

Rubio said the legislation is a result of two weeks of studying federal law to determine ways in which future school shootings can be prevented. He said he met with state and federal law enforcement officials as well as students, teachers, and parents from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in the process of determining how to respond to the school attack. The legislation introduced on Monday is part of his attempt to respond to calls for action and balance Second Amendment protections.

"After the tragic events of Feb. 14, the Parkland community, the residents of Florida, and the entire nation have demanded action," Rubio said. "While there are sharp differences on restrictions to the Second Amendment, there is widespread agreement that we must act now to prevent another tragedy like Parkland from happening anywhere else, ever again."

A similar bill by the same name was introduced into the House of Representatives in January and is currently awaiting hearings in the Judiciary Committee.

Rubio also expressed support for a number of other initiatives beyond the Stop School Violence Act including ending deferential treatment against potentially violent students under the federal PROMISE program, strengthening the background check system with Fix NICS, and requiring the FBI to inform states when somebody fails a background check coupled with an increase in federal prosecutors to pursue those cases. He also said he would continue to advocate for the gun-control measures he recently voiced support for despite his previous opposition. He admitted, however, that those new gun-control measures don't enjoy the same level of support as the other proposals he is pursuing.

"I will continue to explore additional reforms involving age limits and potentially magazine capacity," Rubio said. "These reforms do not enjoy the sort of widespread support in Congress that the other measures announced today enjoy. In order to successfully achieve passage of these ideas, they will need to be crafted in a way that actually contributes to greater public safety, while also not unnecessarily or unfairly infringing on the Second Amendment right of all law-abiding adults to protect themselves, hunt, or participate in recreational shooting."