As a policymaker, I don’t have the luxury of ignoring the other facts surrounding this debate. To ensure I’m putting my best foot forward for you in Washington, I always make a point to look at an issue from all angles, do my homework, listen to your concerns, and determine the best course of action. I’ll do that in this instance too.
In the wake of this tragedy, America is calling on Congress to not just do something, but to actually implement meaningful solutions to keep our students safe. This week, the House listened to the American people by passing the STOP School Violence Act. This legislation is a multi-layered approach that will empower our academic institutions and law enforcement officials by giving them the tools they need to appropriately identify threats before it’s too late.
This legislation passed with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 407-10, sending a clear message to the general public that Members in the House do not consider school safety to be an “us or them” issue and that we’re serious about taking action to keep our children safe.
You might also remember that last December, the House passed H.R. 4477, the Fix NICS Act of 2017, a bill to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and provide administrative review of bump stocks.
A critical look at how to strengthen the current background check system is appropriate. Additionally, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) needs to expeditiously revisit their past actions in approving devices where the primary purpose appears to be the transformation of legal firearms to illegal fully automatic firearms.
Finally, the discussion of what the current age restrictions are concerning firearm sales needs to take place to see if there are benefits to stopping school shooters from having access to firearms.
There is still more work that needs to be done, as it is evident there are many factors at play. So before categorizing this solely as a gun violence issue - I ask that you please join me in reviewing the other facts surrounding this debate, such as: mental health, gaps in our current system, and the responsibilities of our law enforcement officials and academic institutions.
Facts to Consider:
To be clear – those who are adjudicated mental defectives and unlawful users of controlled substances are prohibited by federal law to purchase a firearm from a licensed firearms dealer. In addition to mental health, there are categories of persons prohibited from buying firearms unrelated to mental health, including: felons, fugitives, illegal aliens, persons dishonorably discharged, those who renounce citizenship, and persons with domestic restraining orders, in addition to state laws.
In the case of the Parkland shooting, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz came from a history of loss, rejection, and violence, and was eventually expelled from Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for disciplinary reasons prior to the February 14th shooting. It’s additionally concerning that Cruz was brought to the attention of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) after he began posting images of self-harm on social media. A report produced by DCF indicated Cruz began harming himself after a relationship ended and also detailed a range of mental health conditions he was previously diagnosed with, including depression.
Cruz is not unique. In fact, many of today’s young people are coming to school "broken" in a mental health sense as a result of social, cultural, and familial crises. Simply denying firearms to these students without being able to identify symptoms and actually identify the individual to provide assistance to them will not, in today’s culture, make schools safer. The challenge is to be comprehensive.
Eliminating Breakdowns and Enforcing Current Law
Over the last several years, Cruz was also the subject of multiple 911-calls and at least two separate tips to the FBI. The first tip came after a Mississippi bail bondsman, who also creates YouTube videos, alerted the FBI that an individual had left a disturbing message in the comments section of a video that read: "I’m going to be a professional school shooter."
The Bureau received its second tip on January 5, 2018 – weeks before Cruz carried out the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School. The FBI indicated the tip came from someone who was close to Cruz and warned them he had a "desire to kill people" and worried about "the potential of him conducting a school shooting."
Obviously, Cruz suffered from severe emotional hardships that were triggered by his troubled past and present. Everyone – including fellow classmates and officials at the federal, state, and local levels knew Cruz was deeply disturbed, so why were all of these red flags ignored?
In the days following the shooting, the FBI admitted that “protocols were not followed” and that information should have been forwarded to the Miami field office – but it never was – and the FBI did not investigate the tips it received just five weeks before the shooting.
What we saw in Parkland on February 14th was an example of so many breakdowns in government—at the federal level with the FBI, at the local level with law enforcement officials, and at the school board level with administrators needing to take responsibility for threatening individuals within their student body.
Defining the Critical Role of our Academic Institutions
When it comes to school safety, school administrators must start asking, are we doing everything we can for our students? To eradicate violence on school grounds, we must start focusing on meaningful solutions.
As we’re highlighting the important role our academic institutions play in the safety our children, I would like to note that Mike Quilici, Chief Development Officer for the Diocese of Reno, recently reached out to my office concerning violence prevention on behalf of Reno’s Bishop Manogue Catholic High School. Upon receiving Mr. Quilici’s request, my office was able to locate and provide FBI resources on violence prevention, student profiles, response practices, and relevant studies for review.
I also voluntarily shared these same resources concerning school safety to all of the Superintendents in Nevada for review by security personnel and preventative services. As more information arrives, my office will continue to facilitate resources in a timely and accurate manner. Additionally, I invite all schools in CD-2 to reach out to my office with similar questions about available resources.
As you can see, preventing violence on school grounds is not just a one prong issue – it’s multifaceted. To fully understand this, we must all begin accepting that school safety exists under an umbrella of issues, and there are several solutions that go into prevention that Congress will continue looking at, just like we did this week.
That’s right, technology. Maximizing school surveillance to routinely monitor who is coming onto campus to provide real time information to school administrators and first responders is formerly now necessary as base school infrastructure. Enhanced barriers and screening prior to entry will and should be evaluated and advanced. The technology to monitor and evaluate social media content exists and should also be looked at to identify potential threats.
Washington Wrap Up
In addition to taking action to address school safety, the House also voted on legislation this week that would have authorized the use of investigational drugs by patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal stage condition. H.R. 5247 was brought up as a suspension vote, a measure frequently used on non-controversial pieces of legislation. However, a recorded vote was called on this bill, and while it received support from a majority of Representatives, it did not receive the two-thirds majority needed to successfully pass the House. This is incredibly unfortunate, considering this bill would have given dying patients the choice to access new drugs that could possibly extend or even save their lives.
This bill specifically hits close to home. At one point, my office was asked to intervene in the case of a terminally ill patient in CD-2 whose parents fought tirelessly to let her try an expensive, complicated drug that was experimental, but the hospital wouldn’t administer the drug because of liability purposes. H.R. 5247 would have waived liability for hospitals and doctors to administer these types of drugs.
It’s quite unfortunate that some of my colleagues will claim Republicans want to take away people’s access to health care, while at the same time, voting against a piece of legislation that would increase people’s access to potential lifesaving treatments. Nevertheless, I will continue to put my support behind important issues such as this, and hope that my colleagues can eventually come to the table with Republicans to find common ground.
Foreign Policy Update
As political unrest in the Middle East continues, below is an update on some of the most important issues affecting our foreign policy initiatives:
Iran & Syria
The Iran Deal, which was a cornerstone of President Obama’s foreign policy portfolio, continues to pose a threat to our allies in the region and our own national security. As the primary destabilizing force in the Middle East, Iran consistently counterbalances our security interests and provides training weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic and financial aid to Hezbollah – a Lebanese-based terrorist group who is responsible for hundreds of American deaths.
It's additionally concerning that Iran continues to prop up the Assad Regime in Syria as a way to geographically surround the state of Israel. As you may remember, last month, Iran flew a drone from a base in Syria into Israeli airspace, shortly after this incident, an Israeli F-16 was shot down. In retaliation, Israel conducted an airstrike in Syria that attacked Iranian positions. These incidents are examples of Iran’s continued aggression and its willingness to attempt to destabilize the region.
Time and again, Iran has blatantly violated the agreement without any repercussion from the past Administration. The United States has a responsibility to protect its citizens and our ally, Israel. In an effort to follow through on this responsibility, Congress introduced legislation this month that would allow companies with less than 50% ownership by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) to be sanctioned and cut off from U.S. Banking Institutions. Currently, the sanctions are only applicable to companies with more than 50% ownership by the IRGC.
As we continue to support our allies in the region, I remain committed to working with my colleagues in the House to pass solutions that will hold Iran accountable to the international community.
As you may know, a tariff is a tax imposed on imported or exported commodities. Recently, President Trump made the decision to impose tariffs on imports of aluminum and steel. His justifications for the new tariffs are on the basis of national security. Specifically, his proposal will place a 25% tariff on foreign-made steel and a 10% tariff on foreign-made aluminum being imported to the United States.
There are two sides to his proposal. Critics of the President’s plan fear that tariffs will hurt our economy because they will be passed onto consumers who will be forced to pay a higher price tag on things like food and drink packaging, cars, and airplanes. Another concern is that imposing these tariffs could result in a trade war where other countries retaliate by levying tariffs on American-made goods.
Those who side with the President on his proposal, claim that tariffs will put American businesses that manufacture steel and aluminum on a level playing field. When other nations produce commodities at a lower price, American businesses are unable to compete with the low foreign prices, so those jobs are often outsourced. The hope is that by imposing these tariffs, jobs will be kept here at home, ultimately helping to rebuild our steel and aluminum industry.
While the President’s plan is still in the developmental stages, I would like to hear your opinion on this issue. Please take a moment to let me know what you think through my website. Your feedback is one of the best resources I use to ensure your voice is heard in Washington.
The Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Nevada, John Ruhs, will be heading home to Idaho to take over at the BLM’s National Interagency Fire Center. Having worked alongside John for the last several years, I’ve seen the great work he’s done for Nevada. John’s expertise and comprehensive understanding of western challenges allowed him to bring tremendous value to this important role at the BLM, and I congratulate him on his new position.
With that said, Nevada continues to struggle with revolving doors at many district manager levels, so as we face this most recent challenge of filling the state director position, I hope BLM officials will do their best to appoint someone who will be as reliable as John was. Whoever assumes this roll certainly has big shoes to fill and I look forward to working with the new appointee closely to resolve Nevada’s public land issues.
As always, thank you for subscribing to the Amodei Report. I look forward to continuing to keep you up to date on the issues you care about most.
For additional information, please visit my website at amodei.house.gov or call my Washington office: (202) 225-6155, Reno office: (775) 686-5760 or Elko office: (775) 777-7705. To receive updates on what I am doing in Washington and in Nevada’s 2nd District follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.