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Democrats on DeVos Gun Proposal: ‘A Fountain of Bad Ideas’

Comes after report Education Department considers letting states use federal funds to buy guns for schools

Democrats criticized a report Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is considering allowing states and localities to buy guns for schools. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Democrats criticized a report Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is considering allowing states and localities to buy guns for schools. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats are slamming Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos over a report that the Department of Education is considering allowing states to use federal dollars to purchase guns for schools.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have the discretion to approve state or local plans to purchase guns for teachers.

The department would not confirm that such a move was under consideration, with spokeswoman Liz Hill telling the Times, “The department is constantly considering and evaluating policy issues, particularly issues related to school safety. The secretary nor the department issues opinions on hypothetical scenarios.”

But Democrats unloaded on DeVos, one of their favorite targets in the Donald Trump administration.

Sen. Christoper S. Murphy of Connecticut said he proposed an amendment to block the proposal but said it would be a “heavy lift” to get it added to a spending package.

“Admittedly, I introduced this at the very last minute and without DeVos’ actual proposal, it’s tough to tailor an amendment,” he said. 

The amendment would alter the section of the bill dealing with Department of Education funding to prevent federal funding from being spent “for the provision to any person or a firearm or training in the use of a firearm.”

Murphy said that if such a proposal is released before Congress completes work on the fiscal 2019 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill that preventing federal dollars from being spent to arm and train teachers would become a much more pressing issue.

“I think it would likely be an issue for conference, especially since we came together as Republicans and Democrats to say no to guns in schools in the omnibus,” Murphy said, noting that the fiscal 2018 omnibus prevented school safety funding from going to provide firearms training or firearms to teachers.

“There is no way that Republicans are going to avoid a vote on the floor on guns in schools,” Murphy said. “That’s a terrible policy idea. It’ll get kids killed. But, it’s also terrible politics for Republicans to have to continually go on record supporting arming teachers – something that a very small slice of the electorate actually wants.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire criticized DeVos’ willingness to explore the idea while not allowing the department to study the role of gun laws in school shootings.

“This proposal should be stopped in its tracks,” Shaheen said.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York said the program would divert money from important programs.

“Betsy DeVos is just a fountain of bad ideas,” he tweeted.

Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum called on Congress to prohibit such a policy.

Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush said the effort would cause more students to be harmed and took a shot at Trump’s promise to stock his Cabinet with only “the best people.” 

“These are the type of ideas you get when you don’t hire the ‘best people’ to lead our government agencies,” Rush said. 

New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney said the plan was “just plain dumb.”

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