By Gage Miskimen
WASHINGTON — As students across the nation rallied against gun violence with school walkouts, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, presided over the “See Something, Say Something” Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 14.
A audience member wears a sign calling for a ban on assault weapons at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on March 14. (Gage Miskimen/The Daily Iowan)
The hearing focused on the oversight of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which claimed 17 lives.
Grassley introduced the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Memorial Act, which, he said, is designed to strengthen cutting-edge research into the prevention of school violence.
“We must rally around evidence-based solutions,” he said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said school shootings are too common, noting that since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there has been an average of five incidents per month, and 7,000 children have been killed.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (left), and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 14. Rubio acknowledged that there were law-enforcement failures in the time leading up to the Parkland shootings. (Katelyn Weisbrod/The Daily Iowan)
Florida’s senators testified at the hearing.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said there are too many ways to get around background checks, specifically through gun shows and personal sales.
The Parkland shootings are an issue of law enforcement and the background-check system, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said.
“The school system knew he was dangerous, local law enforcement knew he was dangerous, the FBI was aware that he was dangerous,” Rubio said. “He didn’t slip through one crack, he slipped through every crack.”
David Bowdich, the acting deputy director of the FBI, said the bureau made mistakes, which may have led to the Parkland shootings.
FBI Acting Deputy Director David Bowdich testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 14 in Washington, D.C. (Katelyn Weisbrod/The Daily Iowan)
“While we will never know if we could’ve prevented this tragedy, we should’ve done more,” Bowdich said. “There are limitations for us. We made mistakes here, no question about that.
”Even if we had done everything right, I’m not sure that we could’ve stopped this act. But we could’ve tried.”
Ryan Petty, the father of Parkland shooting victim Alaina Petty, 14, gave a heartfelt testimony to the Judiciary Committee in which he said that though not everyone will agree on guns, everyone can agree that students and teachers should be safe.
“They should be safe at school,” he said. “We rally to the battle cry, ‘This time must be different.’ ”
Katherine Posada, an English teacher at Stoneman Douglas, said that when her class was alerted by the code red, she gathered her students in a corner of the classroom.
Katherine Posada, an English teacher at Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, described what it was like in the school on the day of the shooting at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 14 in Washington. (Katelyn Weisbrod/The Daily Iowan)
“I started to go into panic mode but struggled to keep it together, knowing that if I lost it, my students would lose it, too,” Posada said.
Posada’s classroom is on the opposite side of the school from where the shootings occurred. Students from her other classes who were closer to the shooter have described to her what it was like stepping over classmates’ dead bodies to escape their classrooms.
“These kids will be dealing with this trauma for years to come,” Posada said. “People have suggested this is a mental-health issue, some have said it’s a school-security issue. I agree with both of these, but to say it isn’t also a gun issue is absurd.”
Petty said that to make progress nationwide, other states and the federal government should look at the first steps Florida has taken with legislation.
“There must be more done to protect our schools,” Petty said. “Follow the lead of what has been accomplished in Florida. Find and build on the common ground.”