School shootings are an all-too-common part of the American news cycle. And when they do happen, politicians are quicker than ever to be seen taking action.
"This is on you until you choose to do something,” Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke said while confronting Gov. Gregg Abbott during a press conference. Congressional Democrats are echoing Beto’s call for action. “I just don't understand why people here think we're powerless — we aren't, and there's just not a coincidence that we're the high-income world's deadliest nation and we have the loosest gun laws,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said after news broke of the shooting.
Taking action after crises is not a trait exclusive to Democratic politicians. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) attempted to put forward a bill that would codify the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse into law this week. The database of information, available at SchoolSafety.gov, was established during the Trump administration. It provides faculty, parents, and students with resources on how to improve school safety, as well as grants from the federal and state governments intended to help achieve these goals.
“There’s nothing partisan about this bill whatsoever. It’s just a good idea that could save lives. … All this bill does now is codify it to make sure this clearinghouse stands the test of time — that it will always be there to provide the best practices on school safety,” Johnson said on the floor of the Senate.
The parents of Parkland, Florida, shooting victims Luke Hoyer and Alex Schachter, Tom and Gina Hoyer and Max Schachter, support Johnson’s bill. “So I called up Max, Tom, and Gina and asked them, what would you like me to do? They've been trying to get this codified, passed into law, for four years. I can't explain why it's not law,” said Johnson.
The senator asked for unanimous consent for the bill’s passage, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) objected. “Hardening schools would've done nothing to prevent this shooting. In fact, there were guards and police officers already at the school yesterday when the shooter showed up,” Schumer said. “More guns won't protect our children.”
Codifying an existing program into law is not “more guns.” From a legislative perspective, the bill is not mutually exclusive with Schumer’s recently introduced gun control policies. Grants and resources provided by the federal government can help improve the security standing of low-income schools.
Schumer’s solution was purposefully strategic. He proposed tacking the bill as an amendment to the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act passed by the House of Representatives last week. Republicans were against the bill, and it failed to make it past the 60-vote threshold needed to pass the bill in the Senate on Thursday as all Republicans voted against it.
The majority leader was well aware that Republicans were going to vote against the bill before Thursday. He proposed tacking Johnson’s bill onto the domestic terrorism legislation in an attempt to coerce Republicans. Rather than judging a centrist proposal by its merits, Schumer decided school safety should be a pawn in a larger wish list to expand the surveillance state’s powers at home.
James Sweet is a summer 2022 Washington Examiner fellow.