GOP senators brag about school safety bill that won't actually change anything

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Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, and Ron Johnson have shown little interest in one measure that has been demonstrated to reduce the number of mass shootings: gun law reform.

A trio of Republican senators introduced a bill Friday they claim will promote school safety. All three have a history of opposition to meaningful gun reform in the wake of high-profile school shootings, and their bill effectively does very little to make schoolchildren safer.

Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Rick Scott of Florida introduced the Luke and Alex School Safety Act of 2021, named after Luke Hoyer and Alex Schachter, two victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in Feb. 2018.

The bill is an effort to enshrine in law the Federal Clearinghouse on School Safety, a central source of information on school safety best practices introduced a year ago by Donald Trump.

Rubio said in a press release issued on Monday, "The Parkland shooting is a tragedy I will never forget, and I was proud of the work I was able to accomplish with the families and the previous administration to help ensure school districts have a reliable central authority, or clearinghouse, where evidence-based and successful models for school safety measures are available."

Scott, who was governor of Florida at the time of the shooting, said, "Nearly three years ago, we lost 17 innocent lives in the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I think about those lives lost, and the families impacted, every day. Since that horrible day, I've worked closely with many of the victims' family members as Governor and now as Senator to ensure no child, educator, or family has to experience that again."

Johnson said that the bill will provide resources school districts can access in the future: "Information provided on SchoolSafety.gov will help teachers, school officials, and parents to improve safety measures and create a safe and supportive learning environment for students, while also demanding action if they believe their school needs to do more."

The website lists "foundational elements of school safety," organizes case studies and reports on the effectiveness of various school safety measures, and offers Department of Homeland Security guidance on "securing soft targets and crowded places" like schools. It includes a K-12 set of safety recommendations that suggest schools establish threat assessment teams, practice active shooter drills with their students, and develop strong relationships with local law enforcement so they respond more quickly in an emergency.

But since the Parkland shooting, Rubio, Scott, and Johnson have shown little interest in one measure that has been demonstrated to reduce the number of mass shootings: gun law reform.

In 2018, after the Parkland shooting, Rubio infuriated an audience of survivors when he said that he would continue to take funding from the National Rifle Association. Rubio ranks No. 6 among Republican senators in the amount of funding he receives from the organization.

He also told Parkland parents he did not support an assault weapons ban. "If I believed that that law would have prevented this from happening, I would support it. But I want to explain to you why it would not," Rubio said to a chorus of booing.

Fred Guttenberg, a gun reform advocate and parent of Parkland victim Jamie Guttenberg, challenged him, saying is daughter was shot with a "weapon of war."

In 2019, Rubio repeated his position, telling NPR, "I'm against gun violence. I think it's terrible. I don't believe that an assault weapons ban would prevent it. I can tell you now there are states that have assault weapons bans, and the way they're defined allows weapons of equal lethality to still be legal. They're just cosmetic. Basically, it comes down to cosmetic features of the gun by which you define it."

But according to the New York Times, the federal assault weapons ban in place between 1994 and 2004 led to a 25% decrease in mass shootings and a 40% decrease in deaths.

Scott and and Johnson have similar records of opposing gun reform, and both have been backed and funded by the NRA throughout their careers.

The introduction of the bill to codify the school safety clearinghouse comes on the heels of recently reported remarks by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) calling school shootings, including that at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, "false flag" hoaxes intended to drum up support for gun control legislation. Democratic legislators are seeking to have her expelled for these and other false claims.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.