This Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that the role of guns in school safety would not be a focus of the federal school safety commission, CNN reports.
“That is not part of the commission’s charge, per se,” DeVos said this Tuesday during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
DeVos was responding to a question from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who asked if the commission will consider the role of firearms “as it relates to gun violence in our schools.”
According to DeVos, the commission is studying “school safety and how our students can remain safe at school.”
“Well, you’re studying things like how much time is spent on video games and all that, but you can go to a lot of other countries where they spend just as much time, but have only a tiny fraction of the shootings that we do,” Leahy shot back.
“The gun of choice of mass shooters is an AR-15,” Leahy continued. “Do you believe an 18-year-old high school student should be able to walk into a store and minutes later come out with an AR-15-style gun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition?”
DeVos dodged the question, prompting Leahy to repeat himself, to which DeVos replied: “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 chairs the Federal Commission on School Safety, which was formed after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead. The panel also includes the heads of the departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and the attorney general.
When the commission was established, one of the areas of focus outlined in a White House statement was “age restrictions for certain firearm purchases.”
DeVos has said the commission will report its findings by year’s end, but some critics have said the commission needs to act with more urgency.
The commission recently held its first field hearing, in which DeVos and representatives from the other involved agencies toured a Maryland elementary school that focuses on positive behavioral intervention, which focuses on mentoring and counseling as opposed to punitive discipline practices.
Watch the exchange in the video below:
Featured image via screen grab