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Senate Democrats rail against reported guns-in-schools idea

August 23, 2018

Senate Democrats on Thursday railed against reported plans that the Trump administration is looking at using federal funding to let school districts buy guns for teachers, saying the news threatens to scuttle bipartisan work on a massive spending package the Senate is considering this week.

Sen. Chris Murphy on Thursday introduced an amendment to the $857 billion bill, which funds the Departments of Defense, Labor, Education, and Health next year, that would block the Education Department from allowing school districts to use federal funds to buy firearms for teachers.

The vehement protests from Senate Democrats came after a report in the New York Times said U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is weighing a proposal that would allow local school districts to use grant funding to buy guns for teachers.

Mr. Murphy acknowledged his amendment is unlikely to get a floor vote, but said if Mrs. DeVos goes through with the plan Republicans will be forced one way or another to be put on the record on whether they support it.

“There’s no way Republicans are going to avoid a vote on the floor on guns in schools, and that’s a terrible policy idea,” said Mr. Murphy, Connecticut Democrat. “It’ll get more 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.”

Mr. Murphy pointed out that language in the $1.3 trillion “omnibus” spending bill that funds the government through September includes some money for school safety, with language prohibiting those funds from being used to arm teachers.

The report said the department is eyeing a separate program that doesn’t mention prohibiting weapons purchases.

Mr. Murphy said if the Trump administration ends up following through in pursuing the idea, it could derail forthcoming negotiations on how to reconcile the House and Senate education funding bills.

“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,” said Mr. Murphy, a member of the appropriations committee.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said news of the potential proposal threatens to put a damper on the bipartisan work that’s gone into the education spending bill.

“Let’s spike this hare-brained idea before it gets off the ground,” the New York Democrat said.

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