Iowa’s Republican U.S. senators this week co-signed a bipartisan proposal to address school violence by helping schools bolster security and identify signs of violence.
The proposal was introduced in the wake of the latest mass shooting on a U.S. school campus. On Feb. 14, a gunman shot and killed 17 people, most of them students, at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst were among a perfectly bipartisan group of 22 U.S. senators --- 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats -- who signed on to sponsor legislation that attempts to in part address school violence.
The proposal, according to a press release, would authorize the federal Justice Department to:
*Make grants for training school staff, students and law enforcement to identify signs of violence and intervene to prevent individuals from hurting themselves or others.
*Fund school security equipment and technology.
*Fund school threat assessment and crisis intervention teams.
The legislation calls for $75 million in funding for the 2018 federal budget year and $100 million annually for the next 10 years.
The proposal was designed by Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit advocacy group created after the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., which resulted in the deaths of 26 people, including 20 six- and seven-year-olds.
The group, whose leadership includes family members of some of the young people killed in Newtown, designs and promotes gun violence prevention programs and advocates for “sensible state and national policy,” according to its website.
“Students should not only feel safe at school, but they should be safe at school,” Grassley said in a statement. “We can go a long way in stopping school violence by making our schools less vulnerable to violent attacks and training our teachers, school administrators and law enforcement in threat assessment and early intervention techniques."
Said Ernst, in a statement, “Our children’s safety, well-being and future must always come first. This bipartisan bill will provide our schools with additional resources to prevent senseless and tragic violence. The STOP School Violence act will empower our states and local communities to take the steps they deem necessary to deter future threats and ensure our students, teachers and faculty can focus on what is most important at school – learning and growing.”
The legislation also is supported by Florida’s U.S. senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson.
Ernst was asked during a national radio interview about a bill in the Florida Legislature that included a provision to raise the gun-buying age to 21 years as well as school security and mental health care measures.
Ernst, during an interview on conservative Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, said she thinks school security “should be at the forefront” and mental health care “is very important as well,” but expressed some concern with the age limit provision.
“When you’re raising the age, limiting who you will sell to simply because of age, I worry that there is a demographic out there of law-abiding citizens 18 years of age and older, they are adults, that are having their Second Amendment rights infringed upon by certain stores or individuals,” Ernst said, according to a transcript of the interview. “Now that hasn’t been vetted, obviously, through the court system. We’ll see how that goes.”
Blum in a tight race
Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, represented for the past two terms by Republican U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, is a “toss-up” district in this year’s election, according to a rating change from a national political prognostication site.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a project of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, this week changed Iowa’s 1st District from “leans Republican” to “toss-up.” The shift was one of 26 ratings changes the project made, all of which tilted toward Democrats.
The project said Blum represents a working-class district “with down-ballot Democratic strength that swung to Trump in 2016,” and that Blum should face a “strong” Democratic opponent and “the prospect of a Democratic snapback later this year.”
The project also improved the re-election prediction of Iowa 2nd District U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, the only Democrat in Iowa’s federal delegation, from “likely Democratic” to “safe Democratic.”
Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.