Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill, where she was grilled about gun violence just hours after another school shooting.
The education secretary testified before the a subcommittee meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) grilled a wriggling DeVos on the epidemic of gun violence.
“On average, Americans can expect a school shooting nearly one (to) 1.5 times a week,” DeLauro said. “Several questions — do you believe that we have a crisis with gun violence in our country? That’s a yes or no question.”
“Congresswoman DeLauro, I believe we have a crisis of violence in our country, yes,” DeVos said.
DeLauro pointed to last month’s Parkland, Florida, shooting, where a 19-year-old man killed 17 former classmates and teachers and wounded another 15, and she asked DeVos what she believed was the best way to prevent another school massacre.
“I think there are a number of ways to address this,” DeVos said. “The president has been very clear in his focus.”
The Connecticut Democrat asked the secretary to name those possible solutions.
“There are ways to prevent young people from getting guns who should not be having from having them,” DeVos said. “We need to strengthen background checks and ensure that individuals who should not be getting guns don’t get them, and in the cases where they have them, and have demonstrated that they are not competent to have them, from a mental health perspective, there should be ways of taking them away, emergency restraining and rescission orders.”
DeLauro asked whether school counselors could help prevent school shootings by supporting the social and emotional well being of students — and DeVos agreed they “certainly” could.
“Well, then, we have an issue here,” DeLauro said. “Three days before the Parkland shooting, there was a budget released from your department that proposed to zero out money for school counselors and for school safety.”
DeLauro then changed course and hammered DeVos again.
“Your interview on ’60 Minutes,’ you claimed that teachers having guns in the classroom should be an option states and communities to consider, despite believing that your own first grade teacher should not have been armed,” DeLauro said.
The lawmaker pointed to a poll showing that three-quarters of teachers believe arming school staff would make them less safe, and she asked whether DeVos supported a prohibition on using federal funds to pay for firearms and training for educators.
“That is an issue that needs to be discussed more broadly, and what I will say is this budget was submitted well in advance of recent –” DeVos stared, before DeLauro cut her off.
DeLauro asked her again whether she supported such a prohibition, which most teachers and parents backed.
“That is an important discussion and an important consideration,” DeVos said, as DeLauro challenged her to answer the question. “I think it is an important matter for discussion, in addition to many other factors that play into a culture of violence that I think we can all agree has taken root.”
DeLauro asked again whether DeVos would listen to teachers and recommend a prohibition on federal funding for guns in school.
“You are the secretary of education, you should take their word and do something about it,” she said. “Or if I can judge what you’re saying, what you’re going to do is just to study it. What research do you already have?”
DeVos said some states had already decided to arm educators, while others had prohibited that, and DeLauro asked if she would recommend a federal prohibition.
“That is a matter for Congress to decide,” DeVos said, smiling.