Student voices changing gun debate

Stefanik in support of hearing from victims of Parkland shooting

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (Photo provided — Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times)

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik strongly supports hearing from school shooting survivors from Parkland, Florida, her spokesman Tom Flanagin said on Wednesday.

“It’s critical to the discussion to hear about the experiences of those who were on campus and to listen to their ideas about how to ensure school safety,” Flanagin said on behalf of the congresswoman, a Republican of Willsboro.

Following the Parkland mass shooting that killed 17 and, more recently, the arrest of a Poultney, Vermont, teen after he allegedly threatened to kill students at Fair Haven Union High School in Vermont, local law enforcement officials and parents have held several town halls and discussion sessions to express fears and offer potential solutions, including arming teachers and having armed guards on campuses.

“Locally, our offices have also heard from families who are concerned about school safety in our region,” Flanagin said. “Congresswoman Stefanik has close relationships with our local law enforcement departments, teachers and school superintendents and will be engaging with them on possible solutions to ensure safe environments for our students.”

But Stefanik does not believe mandatory arming of teachers without proper training is the appropriate solution.

“We do need to have a conversation about greater security on our campuses, and that conversation should entail potentially including properly trained, armed guards on campuses if the local school districts support this,” said Flanagin for Stefanik, who remains a Second Amendment advocate.

“She is open to common-sense solutions that do not infringe on the constitutional liberties of law-abiding citizens,” said Flanagin. “Congresswoman Stefanik supports common-sense solutions that can help stop these tragedies from occurring.”

Patrick Nelson, one of eight Democratic candidates running against Stefanik in New York’s 21st Congressional District, said Thursday there are several solutions almost everyone agrees on, such as banning bump stocks and expanded background checks.

“If there is common ground, let’s not hold up what we agree on and get them passed,” Nelson said. “Let’s put away partisan-ism and push through what we all agree on.”

Stefanik is a co-sponsor of legislation that would ban bump stocks, and last Friday, she joined a bipartisan effort to ask House Speaker Paul Ryan to bring up stand-alone legislation that she is co-sponsoring to improve the background check system.

According to Flanagin, Stefanik co-sponsored two pieces of legislation on Tuesday to make schools safer — H.R. 4909, the STOP School Violence Act of 2018, and H.R. 4811, the Securing Our Schools Act of 2018 — and she will continue working with her colleagues on this issue.

H.R. 4909 would invest in early intervention and prevention programs to stop school violence before it happens by authorizing Department of Justice state grant awards for training students, school personnel and law enforcement to identify signs of violence and intervention methods.

H.R. 4811 would provide grant funding for devices that immediately notify emergency response personnel and law enforcement, or other devices that allow for appropriate officials in the case of an emergency.

Nelson added that getting rid of the Dickey Amendment, a 1996 law that restricts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control from researching gun violence, would help inform decisions by bringing data to gun control solutions.