Washington • Utah’s four House members voted Wednesday with nearly all their colleagues to pass a bill seeking to halt school shootings on the same day as students across the country walked out of classes to call on Congress to take action to keep them safe.
The House voted 407-10 to pass the Students, Teachers and Officers Preventing School Violence Act (the STOP School Violence Act), with five Democrats and five Republicans opposing the measure.
The bill authorizes $50 million per year for 10 years to boost school security, pay for “threat assessment teams” to train faculty and students about warning signs, and help law enforcement officials learn to identify potential threats in schools.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is sponsoring a companion bill.
The STOP School Violence Act, which has the support of the White House and the National Rifle Association, won overwhelming bipartisan support, though it has been criticized as not doing enough to curb mass shootings.
Utah’s House members, all Republicans, said it was a good first step.
“Today, as students across the country are marching for change by walking out of their classrooms, I think it was appropriate for the House, with my support, to pass this bipartisan bill, because if there is one place students should feel safe, it is at school,” Rep. John Curtis said.
Rep. Chris Stewart said the bill would help “ensure our kids are safe at school” and noted the millions of dollars that would help school boards improve security, seek crisis intervention and coordinate with law enforcement.
“Schools should be a place of refuge where students and parents feel safe,” Stewart said. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate to promptly pass this bill.”
Rep. Mia Love, who noted her three kids attend public schools, said she felt an urgency to get something done.
“I’m pleased that we are working in a bipartisan way to empower local school districts to determine how best to improve school safety,” she said, echoing that it was a good first step to stop more violence.
Rep. Rob Bishop, who previously lobbied for the NRA before serving in Congress, said that as a former teacher, he sees the need for a secure school environment.
“This bill allows schools to improve student safety while respecting constitutional rights,” he said. “The legislation assists states and local schools in designing safety programs specific to their needs. This is local empowerment designed to keep kids safe.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., supported the bill but said the legislation “on its own is not the kind of meaningful congressional action needed to address this crisis of gun violence plaguing our nation.”
“This must be a first step, and it must be followed by a serious effort to pass legislation that expands background checks and bans military-style assault weapons,” Hoyer continued.
The STOP School Violence Act is the only legislation on track to gain congressional approval after the latest mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., last month.