A federal commission created directly after the horrific Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school shooting in Florida will not focus on guns in schools. On Tuesday, while speaking with members of the Congress, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the school safety commission won't study guns' impact as "that is not part of the commission’s charge per se."
DeVos' response was to Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy's question, "Will your commission look at the role of firearms as it relates to gun violence in our schools?" After DeVos responded in the negative, a terse Leahy said, "I see. So you're studying gun violence, but not considering the roles of guns."
DeVos replied, "We're actually studying school safety and we can ensure our students are safe at school."
According to CNN's study on school gun violence in 2018, there has been an average of one school shooting where a person was hurt or killed per week in the United States. In total, that's at least 23 school shootings since the beginning of the year.
Instead of highlighting the impact of guns in school premises, Donald Trump's Federal Commission on School Safety will focus on improving peer relations, counseling, and mentoring on campuses, according to the official webpage on the commission.
Speaking further on the issue, Education Department Press Secretary Liz Hill told ABC News, "The Secretary and the commission continue to look at all issues the President [Donald Trump] asked the committee to study and are focused on making recommendations that the agencies, states and local communities can implement." Hill added, "It’s important to note that the commission cannot create or amend current gun laws — that is the Congress’ job."
Sen. Leahy also asked DeVos whether her commission was studying the effect of social media and video games on non-American youths who frequently use both sources of entertainment like young Americans do. "Are you looking at those at all? It's a yes or no [answer]," the senator said. "Um, not per se," DeVos responded.
The federal commission created by Trump also includes, apart from DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. The commission was created on March 12, less than a month after the Florida school shooting, and held on its first "field visit" in late May. But Sessions, Nielsen, and Azar did not attend the meeting, which took place at an elementary school in Maryland.
Shortly after reports emerged of the exchange took place between DeVos and Leahy, observers on social media criticized the education secretary for her answers.
As perplexing as the DeVos' response was, it may not have surprised those who have studied her commission's website content. After all, it doesn't mention "gun violence" at all. At the top of the Federal Commission on School Safety, there is a quote by Trump, which says, "Every child deserves to grow up in a safe community surrounded by a loving family and to have a future filled with opportunity and with hope."
The commission's website, which was created in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, shooting, mentions "firearms" only once. The mentioning is made as one of the commission's recommendations which states that it will hold a "discussion on minimum age for firearms purchases" but not a discussion on anti-gun violence laws. At this moment, state legislatures have shown more willingness at passing anti-gun violence laws compared to the Congress.
On top of zero mentioning of gun violence on the commission's website, those seeking to read about tangible action from the committee may have to wait. DeVos told the Congress that a final report from the commission will arrive at the "year's end."