WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said there may be a “transitional” role played by the federal government in beefing up school security with federal government building controlled access as a guide.
McConnell told reporters outside of a closed policy luncheon on Capitol Hill today that GOP lawmakers had “considerable discussion about the school safety issue” over the meal, but when asked if Republicans fear opening the door on increased background check requirements would allow in more gun-control measures he replied, “We’ve been down this path before.”
“The lion’s share of the discussion at lunch today was about school safety. And I think the governors are very much aware of that issue and it strikes me, even though it’s not a federal issue, Senator Hatch does have a bill on school safety,” he said. “We ought to be able to tackle that problem. It’s hard to get in the Capitol without going through a metal detector, an airport. We need our schools to be safe. The federal role in that may be transitional, but it seems to me we ought to be able to harden those schools and protect our youngsters, so that when they go into the schools, we know they’ll come out.”
Asked if that could mean funds from Congress, McConnell said, “We’re looking at all aspects of this, we had an extensive discussion about it.”
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who met privately with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who are in Washington to lobby for tougher gun regulations, said today on the issues of expanding background checks or banning bump stocks that he’s “waiting to see what the Senate can do, and we’ll find out what the Senate can do and then we’ll address that then.”
“We do know that there are gaps in the background check system that need to be plugged. We passed a bill to do that. And we think that should get done, clearly,” he said.
Ryan was quick to add that “we shouldn’t be banning guns for law-abiding citizens.”
“We should be focusing on making sure that citizens who should not get guns in the first place don’t get those guns. And that is why we see a big breakdown in the system here,” he said. “In this particular case, there were a lot of breakdowns, from the local law enforcement to the FBI getting tips that they didn’t follow up on to, you know, school resource officers who are trained to protect kids in these schools and — and who didn’t do that. And that to me is probably the most stunning one of them all.”
“So there’s a lot that we have to look at, but what we want to do is protect people’s rights while making sure that people who should not get guns do not get those guns.”
Arming school staff “is really a question for local government, local school boards, local states,” Ryan said, and “we need to respect federalism.”
Ryan said the Parkland, Fla., massacre “speaks to bigger questions of our culture: What are we teaching our kids?”
“Look at the violence in our culture. Look at what they are getting as far as a culture that’s providing them,” he said. “There’s bigger questions here than a narrow law. What about law enforcement? What about school resource officers? What about the FBI? What about background checks? Those are all things that we have to get lots of answers to.”
“At the end of the day or at the beginning of the day, we also have to ask ourselves about the kind of culture that’s creating these kinds of people.”
That, Ryan continued, leads to asking whether “we have the kind of mental health laws that we need on the books.”
“Again, we passed overhaul of the entire mental health system. The question is, are we making sure that that overhaul is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, to making sure that people who are like this do not get those kinds of guns?” he asked. “That’s where we should focus our problem to be solved, which is the people who shouldn’t get guns without trying to take away a citizen’s rights.”