Sen. Blumenthal, Education Advocates Discuss School Safety Needs
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — The Senate Judiciary Committee recently passed the School and Campus Safety Enhancement Act that would reauthorize the Secure Our Schools Grant Program. The renewed program would provide $40 million in annual grants over the next 10 years for security-related capital improvements, training, and security assessments.
Following the approval, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who co-sponsored the legislation, met with Middletown officials, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents and the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education at Middletown’s Snow School Friday to discuss the need for renewed federal funding for school safety.
The first Secure Our Schools (SOS) program was enacted in 2000, providing 50/50 matching grants to local school districts to help pay for security-related capital improvements. Since then, 5,500 schools nationwide have received SOS funds, including 15 in Connecticut totaling $1.15 million. The latest reauthorization would renew and increase funding for the program, and would expand eligible uses for the grants, including creation of school security tip lines. The legislation would also create a joint Department of Justice and Department of Education task force that would develop advisory school safety guidelines to assist local districts.
Since the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, 262 students, teachers and others have been killed or wounded in K-12 school shootings, not including the dozens more who have been killed and injured by gun violence on college campuses. Unfortunately, school shootings are becoming more prevalent. Between 2009 and 2011, there were 43 school shootings, representing two-thirds of the total number of shootings that took place the entire preceding decade.
“Newtown was a tragic call to action across many fronts. We have a responsibility to act to ensure the safety of our children, our schools and our communities, and that includes providing our schools with the funding they need to make critical investments in the security of their buildings,” Blumenthal said. “But our efforts cannot stop there. We must take action to keep guns and ammunition out of the wrong hands, to keep weapons of war out of our neighborhoods, to repair our broken mental health system, and to help law enforcement enforce the laws already on the books. We owe the victims of Newtown — and the 2,500 others who have died from gun violence since then — decisive action that will make a difference.”
In addition to the School and Campus Safety Enhancement Act, the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Blumenthal is a member, has passed several critical gun safety measures, including most recently the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, which passed on Thursday. The bill, co-sponsored by Blumenthal, would ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013, and the Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act passed last week. The Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013, which Blumenthal co-sponsored, gives law enforcement extensive new tools to combat straw purchasing and gun trafficking. The Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act would require a background check for all firearm sales and ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
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