DeVos Says Schools Allowed to use Federal Money to Buy Guns
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced on Friday that she will not stand in the way of states that choose to use federal grants to purchase guns for schools.
DeVos emphasized that the decision to use federal block grant money to purchase guns for school security is a decision for local officials to make.
“I have no intention of taking any action concerning the purchase of firearms or firearms training for school staff under the [Elementary and Secondary Education Act],” DeVos wrote in a letter to the top Democrat on the House Education Committee, Bobby Scott.
Education Department officials have determined that states and school districts already have the flexibility to purchase firearms with federal education grants. DeVos said in her letter that states and school districts have “substantial flexibility” in deciding how they spend the money provided by the $1 billion Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program.
DeVos follows President Donald Trump’s lead in the heavily contentious debate over whether teachers in schools should be armed. They argue that those who are properly trained should be allowed to use block grant money to purchase guns in communities that back the effort.
Anti-gun critics argue that Congress never intended for the money to be used for guns. Sen. Chris Murphy (Dem – CN), said on the Senate floor last week that “DeVos allowing federal funds to be used to arm teachers is in direct contravention of federal law.”
The matter has been brewing since June when DeVos told lawmakers the Trump administration‘s school safety commission would not be studying potential changes to gun laws.
At that time, advocates of tighter gun laws seized on DeVos’ decision. John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said, “What we heard today only confirms what we already knew: The Trump administration is far more concerned with securing NRA support than addressing the root causes of gun violence–namely, our lax gun laws.”
States like Texas prompted the debate when they sought clarity on whether they can use the funds to arm school personnel. The Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education told the AP that arming educators “is a good example of a profoundly personal decision on the part of a school or a school district or even a state.”
In June, DeVos was asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) if the commission, formed after the Parkland, Fla. high school shooting earlier this year, would examine guns. Her answer angered anti-gun factions when she responded, “That is not part of the commission’s charge per se.”
DeVos’ comments this past June came during testimony before the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees education funding. She was there to testify on the department’s fiscal 2019 budget.
Leahy, the top Democrat on Senate Appropriations, questioned DeVos about the commission’s charge. “So you’re studying gun violence but not considering the role of guns?” he asked DeVos.
“We’re actually studying school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school,” DeVos said. She added that the commission would focus on the roughly 20 areas that the White House had outlined for it.
The school safety commission is made up of four Cabinet secretaries: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Gun rights advocates should take comfort in the fact President Trump’s choice for Education Secretary refuses to allow anti-gun factions to dictate how she leads the Department of Education.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), said on the Senate floor last week that “DeVos “allowing federal funds to be used to arm teachers is in direct contravention of federal law.”
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) disagreed telling reporters that Congress had already allowed states and school districts to decide whether to use federal money to buy guns.
Education Department spokeswoman, Liz Hill, said the commission is considering age restrictions on firearms and that the Justice Department has taken the lead on that particular issue.
Hill then put the impetus on Congress when she said, “The secretary and the commission continue to look at all issues the President asked the committee to study …It’s important to note that the commission cannot create or amend current gun laws — that is the Congress’ job.”
As long as those determined to tear down the Second Amendment continue to use tragedies like the one in Parkland, FL for their own political purposes, we need diligent leaders like Betsy DeVos.