Betsy DeVos Says Safety Commission Won't Look At Role Of Guns In School Shootings

by Cassandra Stone
Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Betsy DeVos says addressing the role of guns in school violence isn’t ‘the commission’s charge’

While testifying before the Senate appropriations subcommittee yesterday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the White House’s school safety commission won’t look at the role guns play in school shootings.

The Federal Commission on School Safety, which DeVos chairs, was established in March of this year, in the wake of the Parkland shooting. When asked by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy if the commission “will look at the role of firearms as it relates to gun violence in our schools,” DeVos gave a startling response.

“That is not part of the commission’s charge, per se,” she said.

So what, pray tell, exactly is the purpose of a safety commission designed to address the problem with school safety in the United States? Specifically, a committee founded in the wake of yet another mass shooting at a school? Senator Leahy pried for a more concrete response from DeVos, but to no avail.

“I see,” he said. “So, you’re studying gun violence but not considering the role of guns.”

“We’re actually studying school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school,” DeVos said.

Okay, BETSY, but what about the goddamn guns? You cannot chair a commission on school violence prevention while dancing around the reason behind the need for a commission on school safety in the first place: gun violence and access to firearms.

When the Federal Commission on School Safety was established, the White House declared the purpose of the commission was for the group to address topics like age restrictions for certain firearm purchases, prevention of active shooter incidents at schools, and to incorporate best practices for violence prevention strategies. The commission is also tasked with looking at the role of “the youth consumption of violent entertainment” (i.e. video games) and “the appropriateness of psychotropic medication for treatment of troubled youth.”

You know, teenagers in plenty of other countries play the same video games teens in the United States play. Plenty of other teens in other countries experience mental health issues. And yet, other countries don’t have the same issues with gun violence in schools as the United States does. Senator Leahy asked DeVos if the commission would be looking at statistics that show other countries “don’t have gun violence in their schools” despite teens universally sharing the same entertainment interests.

DeVos’ response? “Not per se.”

Leahy also asked DeVos if she thinks 18-year-olds should be able to “go into a store and minutes later, come out with an AR-15-style gun and ammunition,” DeVos, once again, skirted around giving a definitive answer.

“I believe that’s very much a matter for debate, and I know that’s been debated within this body and will continue to be,” DeVos said. She claims the focus of the commission is on “raising up successful proven techniques” to ensure school safety.

“So we’ll look at gun violence in schools but not look at guns,” Senator Leahy concluded. “It’s an interesting concept.”