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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

US Congress inches forward with gun violence measure

House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to fund violence prevention measures at the nation’s schools

Students rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, as part of a nationwide call for action against gun violence. AFP/JIM WATSON
Students rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, as part of a nationwide call for action against gun violence. AFP/JIM WATSON

As thousands of students staged walkouts Wednesday to protest inaction on gun control, US lawmakers took their first significant step to address gun violence since 17 people were murdered at a Florida high school one month ago.

The US Congress has yet to tackle the more controversial aspects of gun control in the aftermath of the shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, namely the restriction of certain weapons, age limits for purchases, or the expansion of background checks.

But the House of Representatives did vote overwhelmingly Wednesday to fund violence prevention measures at the nation’s schools including boosting school security and creating anonymous reporting systems so students can report threats.

The STOP School Violence Act was introduced by Republican congressman John Rutherford, a former sheriff of Jacksonville, Florida, and co-sponsored by House Democrat Ted Deutch, who represents the district that includes Parkland.

It passed by 407 to 10. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate.

The legislation, which provides $75 million annually, would fund development of “intervention teams” as well as training for school officials and students in preventing violence and for responding to mental health crises.

It would also fund physical improvements like more metal detectors and better locks.

“This is a common-sense approach to combatting senseless violence,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said after its passage.

House Democrat Jerrold Nadler supported the bill, but said it was “shameful” that Congress has so far failed to reduce the gun violence threat to children.

“This bill does not include any provisions to strengthen our gun laws or to help keep guns out of the hands of those who should not possess them,” he said.

A raft of other proposals are being considered in the House and Senate, including bills that expand background checks, allow for gun violence protection orders and increase punishments for people who attempt to purchase guns despite being banned from doing so.

President Donald Trump had signalled support for raising the federal minimum age from 18 to 21 for purchasing semi-automatic rifles, but he has been accused of backtracking under pressure from the powerful pro-gun lobby.

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