House Members Approve Bulletproof Vests & Other Security Measures For Themselves On Taxpayers' Dime

ByMonica Busch

Almost two weeks to the day after a shooter killed 17 students and staff at a Florida high school, a House committee voted to allow Congress members to buy bulletproof vests with federal tax dollars, among other security measures for themselves. According to The Hill, the changes appear as an amendment to the Members' Congressional Handbook.

According to the changes, House members will be able to expand rent budgets to include the cost of adding bulletproof glass to district offices, and bulletproof vests will be considered a "reimbursable" expense. They may also hire security officials to accompany them on district events, like town halls, while performing "official" duties, and to be stationed "inside or outside the district office during business hours."

The resolution to increase House members' ability to fund security measures for themselves comes as a renewed gun control debate and questions about heightened school security measures has gripped public debate. Immediately after the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, cries for every level of gun control tore across social media. Public discussion has included a slew of measures, ranging from an all-out ban on assault weapons to banning bump stocks and raising the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21. In the two weeks since the shooting transpired, it seems that no option has gone unmentioned.

Even President Trump, who since taking office has hesitated to back any meaningful gun control measures, has expressed interest in tightening some firearms restrictions. Most avidly, he has proposed banning bump stocks, a modification which significantly increases the number of rounds that can be fired within a single minute. (Basically, bump stocks allow shooters to use the kick-back that occurs from shot to shot, and allows the trigger to be pulled at a much faster rate than the shooter would otherwise be able to.)

On Monday, Trump said he would ban bump stocks himself, whether or not Congress chooses to act on the idea. He said he planned to do so by make them extremely difficult to get.

"You do a rule, have to wait 90 days," he said at a meeting with a slew of the nation's governors on Monday, reports POLITICO. "That’s sort of what’s happening with bump stocks. It’s gone, don’t worry about it. It’s gone, essentially gone, because we are going to make it so tough, you’re not going to be able to get them. Nobody’s going to want them anyway."

In the same speech, he also described bump stocks as unhelpful additions to guns whose users wish to shoot accurately. "A bump stock, you shoot rapidly but not accurately," he said. "The bullets come out fast, but you don’t know where the hell they’re going. That’s why nobody even really, too much, came to its defense... So, I'm getting rid of them."

But while Trump has insisted he plans to take actions to institute at least some type of protective measures against mass shootings (he also proposed arming a portion of teachers and raising the age restriction to purchase guns), like members of Congress, he hasn't acted. Many critics are quick to point to the National Rifle Association (NRA), the leading gun rights advocacy group.

The NRA routinely donates large sums of money to candidates and elected officials who then generally vote down any gun control measures, or, alternatively, never pose them. When confronted about accepting these donations, politicians often balk.

And while the NRA continues to pour money into elections, a new Quinnipiac University National Poll indicates that more than half of Americans believe the organization supports policies that are bad for the United States. That figure is up from October, having risen from 47 percent to 51 percent. Similarly, the amount of Americans who view the group positively has sunk, from 43 percent to 38 percent within the same timeframe.