New Law Would Reveal True Horror of America’s Deadly School Shootings

Legislation would define ‘school shooting’ and collect data on campus gun violence incidents, motive, weapons – all to develop better gun safety strategies.

April 26, 2023

Washington D.C. – Today, Representatives Lucy McBath (GA-07), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-25), and Jahana Hayes (CT-05) and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act for the 118th Congress, legislation which would allow the public and policy makers to gain a complete, accurate picture of gun violence in and around our school campuses, and provide actionable data to help  prevent bloodshed at America’s places of learning.

Crucially, this law would create a definition for ‘school shooting,’ which does not exist in federal law. Currently, policy makers rely on media reports of ‘school shootings,’ which can vary widely. With a standard definition, lawmakers would have a reliable way to measure incidents, trends, and the impact of reforms and strategies designed to save lives. 

This bill would also direct the Department of Education to consult with the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to produce comprehensive annual reports on school safety indicators, such as shooting and fatality statistics, shooter and victim demographics, shooter motivations, the types of firearms and ammunition acquired and used, and more. It would also track prevention efforts, such as building designs, and communication and response plans. Without that, a true understanding of the problem remains as elusive as the best solutions we need to finally end it.

“When we send our children off to school, we expect them to learn math, science, art, and music—not how to hide from active shooters. School shootings and mass shootings are far too common in our country, and they are traumatizing our children and families,” said Congresswoman McBath.“There is not currently a federal definition for a ‘school shooting,’ yet far too many of our young people have witnessed one firsthand. We must find solutions to stop these horrifying tragedies. I thank all those who continue to stand with us in the fight to end gun violence.”

“We will never loosen the chokehold opponents of gun safety have on solving this public health crisis until we fully understand the carnage that firearms inflict on Americans, especially on our school campuses,” said Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz. “The more we know about the dangers that guns pose to our classrooms, the more likely we are to prevent the next Marjorie Stoneman Douglas or Sandy Hook massacre. Protecting students and teachers, and understanding the real dangers they face from firearms, is yet one more political space where all sides can agree that we need to make swift, substantial progress. We just need the data to help identify trends and gaps, and then we can work toward solving it. This legislation would build a sturdy foundation to make schools safer.”    

“Gun violence prevention remains a top priority for me. Unfortunately, every day gun violence incidents continue to plague communities nationwide - compromising school safety and decimating the mental health of students. Exposure to school shootings decreases academic performance and makes children more susceptible to perpetuating the vicious cycle of violence. The first step to address this crisis is understanding how and why school shootings happen,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “The School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act is an essential, common-sense measure to finally provide a definition of a school shooting and formally collect data so we can attempt to find solutions to ending this horrific phenomenon.”

“Gun violence has become the leading cause of death for kids in America – and as school shootings continue to occur at an unrelenting pace, our kids are growing up with a reasonable fear of being killed at their school. By improving data collection and sharing, the School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act is a step toward preventing these tragedies and keeping our kids safe at school. I’ll keep working with my colleagues to address the epidemic of gun violence that has already affected too many kids and schools across Colorado and the country,” said Sen. Bennet. 

Gun safety and education groups are also backing this critical legislation:

“School shootings should not be an inevitable part of growing up in the United States. They are avoidable tragedies. Instead of just accepting school shootings as the price for freedom and traumatizing our children with active shooter drills, we need to take common sense steps to ensure the safety of our kids. One of the first tasks is to identify when and how school shootings happen. The School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act will help lawmakers understand the scope and breadth of gun violence in our schools and produce data with which policymakers will be better able to address gun violence in schools. This information will help make students and educators safer at school. We commend Representatives Wasserman Schultz, Hayes, and McBath, as well as Senator Bennet for their leadership on this critical issue.” Adzi Vokhiwa, GIFFORDS Federal Affairs Director.

“Newtown Action Alliance is proud to support the School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act. Since 20 children and six educators were killed by a gunman with an AR-15, there have too many school shootings in our nation. Since there is no uniform national definition of school shooting incidents, it's difficult to fully understand the scope of the school shooting crisis in America,” said Po Murray, Chairwoman of Newtown Action Alliance. “We urge Congress to pass this common sense legislation that would help us collect reliable data that is needed to better protect our children and their educators in our schools. Guns are now the number one cause of death for American children and teens and Congress must do everything in its power to protect our kids.”

“The National Education Association is grateful to Reps. Wasserman Schultz, Jahana Hayes, and Lucy McBath, as well as Sen. Michael Bennet for reintroducing the School Shooting Safety and Preparedness Act. We need to address to issue of gun violence and school safety, but we also need comprehensive and uniformed data in order to do so. This bill would help us achieve safer schools for our students, educators, and communities,” said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations, National Education Association.

Endorsing Organizations: Everytown for Gun Safety, National Education Association, Newtown Action Alliance, National Association of School Psychologists, March for Our Lives, Giffords

The full text of the bill can be found here. A one-page summary of the bill can be found here.