Staff Columnist

Grassley, Ernst join school safety bill

Capitol Ideas: Bipartisan group calls for $75 million in 2018 budget year

Mourners bring flowers Feb. 25 as they pay tribute at a memorial for victims of the Valentine's Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. A gunman killed 17 people at the school northwest of Fort Lauderdale. (David Santiago/Miami Herald)
Mourners bring flowers Feb. 25 as they pay tribute at a memorial for victims of the Valentine's Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. A gunman killed 17 people at the school northwest of Fort Lauderdale. (David Santiago/Miami Herald)

Iowa’s Republican U.S. senators last week co-signed a bipartisan proposal to address school violence by helping schools bolster security and identify signs of impending 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, Fla.

This past week, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst were among a bipartisan group of 22 senators — 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats — who signed on to sponsor legislation that attempts to in part to address school violence. The proposal, a news release said, would authorize the 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 6- and 7-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 Hugh Hewitt’s conservative national 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.”

The new Florida law, signed Friday by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, imposes a three-day waiting period for most purchases of long guns, raises the minimum age for buying those weapons to 21 and bans the possession of bump stocks, devices that can make semi-automatic weapons fire like fully automatic firearms.

The National Rifle Association quickly filed a federal lawsuit, asserting the age restriction violates the second and 14th amendments of the Constitution.

Blum in a tight race

Iowa’s 1st House District, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, is a “tossup” 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, last week changed Iowa’s 1st District from “leans Republican” to “tossup.”

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. His email address is Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.


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