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Grassley Q&A: School Violence

With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Q: How would your EAGLES Act address school violence?

A: The recent massacres of innocent people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas renew the urgency to reach consensus on public policy that will save innocent lives from criminal violence in our society. Following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day 2018, Congress took steps to protect schools and prevent gun violence, including passage of the Students, Teachers and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act. It boosted federal grants to local schools for evidence-based programs to prevent school violence and to fortify their buildings and classrooms to make it more difficult for criminal predators and dangerous individuals to enter and do harm. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I co-sponsored and led the effort to pass this bill and then worked with the Trump administration to beef up federal funding for local schools. And every year, I continue to work to make sure this program is robustly funded at the highest possible level. We also passed the Fix NICS Act to keep firearms out of the wrong hands. This law holds federal agencies accountable if they fall out of compliance with legal requirements to report dangerous individuals and violent criminals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. For example, a failure of this system led to a disastrous consequence with the shooting in 2017 at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Last year, I re-introduced The Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act to increase resources for school safety, ensure federal agencies accurately submit records to NICS and ensure criminals who illegally buy a firearm are prosecuted.

The recent murders of 19 students and 2 teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas underscore the need to pass the EAGLES Act, my bicameral, bipartisan bill I reintroduced this Congress. The EAGLES Act is named after the school mascot for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I wrote this bill after meeting with the families who lost loved ones during the Parkland shooting and conducting oversight into the failure by the FBI and local law enforcement to act on credible warnings about the shooter. My bill would beef up the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) that focuses on violent crime prevention and assesses indicators for targeted violence. It would expand NTAC’s portfolio for school violence prevention, research and early intervention. In the last two decades, the Secret Service has trained nearly 200,000 school officials. My legislation would enable the Secret Service to share its expertise with local officials across the country to help thwart and prevent acts of criminal violence from infiltrating our schools, places of worship and town squares. It is supported by more than 40 state attorneys general, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Secondary School Principals and Major County Sheriffs of America. It’s said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By that measure, the EAGLES Act is an important step Congress should take now without further delay to help prevent school shootings. Classrooms ought to be places of refuge and learning, not where violent crime scenes unfold. American families have had their hearts broken by these targeted acts of violence and society grieves with each one of them. When I chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Trump administration, I held oversight hearings on the Parkland shooting and I’ll continue working with parents, educators, law enforcement officials and mental health professionals to help prevent carnage in our classrooms from crushing the hearts and souls of moms and dads across America and stealing lives away from the next generation.

 

Q: How can we support local law enforcement who put their lives on the line in our schools and local communities?

A: Every day across America when law enforcement officers put on the uniform and walk out of their homes, their loved ones understand the job puts them in harm’s way for the safety and protection of others. At my county meetings across the state, Iowans tell me they oppose the Defund the Police rhetoric that’s demoralized local law enforcement and impeded efforts to retain and recruit officers.

The Senate Judiciary Committee recently passed four bipartisan bills to empower our local police with the resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. As the ranking member of the committee, I’ll continue working to help get these bills passed into law. My bipartisan Fighting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act would establish mental health programs to help first responders cope with the stresses of responding to crisis situations. The Invest to Protect Act would provide $250 million over the next five years to small law enforcement agencies for help with training, equipment, recruitment and retention of officers in local departments. The Strong Communities Act would allow Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant funds to be used for recruits to attend schools or academies if they agree to serve in law enforcement agencies in their local communities. The Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act would provide specialized training for officers to respond to individuals experiencing a mental, behavioral health or suicidal crisis. These de-escalation tactics would help protect the safety of the individual, law enforcement officers, mental health professionals and the public. As a society, we grieve for the lives lost and mourn with the loved ones left behind. Parents across the country want and deserve answers and I appreciate the calls and emails to my office from Iowans. As Americans, we must come together, Love Thy Neighbor and work together to prevent these inconceivable acts of violence from happening.

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