Reforms needed to improve school safety

Dan Newhouse, U.S. Congressman

Something that has been lacking in the current national debate on firearms is trust and good faith.
Responsible gun owners mourn the innocent victims of mass shootings. Responsible gun owners want to keep our communities safe. Parents on both sides of this debate worry about our children’s safety.
All of us agree that mentally unstable or dangerous individuals should not have access to firearms. We must ensure that laws are effectively enforced – especially considering that there were clear signs that the Parkland, Florida shooter had mental health issues yet fell through the cracks.
In January, someone close to the shooter reported concerns about him to the FBI’s tip line. The FBI was provided with information about the shooter’s gun ownership, his desire to kill people, his erratic behavior, his disturbing social media posts, and the potential that he would conduct a school shooting.
The FBI admitted that protocols were not followed. Additionally, local law enforcement in Broward County in Florida responded 39 times to emergency calls at the shooter’s home over a seven-year period. This is a case where national and local law enforcement had the information necessary to intervene based on the shooter’s threats and tragically did not. There was a failure to enforce laws that are already in place to protect the public.
Since the shooting, the national debate has largely split on cultural lines. It seems as though the perspective of rural America has practically been ignored.
We want to defend against and deter attacks on all children. The purpose of the Second Amendment is for individuals to possess the means to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. Infringing on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans simply will not make anyone safer.
Many of us have grown up responsibly using firearms to defend ourselves, to hunt, or for sport. In rural communities like many in Central Washington, the response time of law enforcement from the nearest town may make the difference between staying safe and becoming a victim of crime. We exercise our Second Amendment rights responsibly because they allow us to defend innocent life. For us Second Amendment supporters, this right is as equally fundamental as the rights of free speech, free exercise of religion, and due process.
I support needed improvements to secure schools better and make them safer while safeguarding the Second Amendment.
I cosponsored H.R. 4811, Securing Our Schools Act, to improve communication between schools and law enforcement in the case of a medical emergency, active shooter incident, or natural disaster. I cosponsored H.R. 4909, the Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act. STOP would create a grant program to train students, teachers, school officials, and local law enforcement how to identify and intervene early when signs of violence arise, create a coordinated reporting system, and implement FBI and Secret Service-based school threat assessment protocols to prevent school shootings before they happen.
We can come together to make our schools and communities safer. We can achieve this goal without taking away fundamental rights from law-abiding Americans. We can make schools safer by enforcing the law while safeguarding our rights.

Mineral Withdrawal the Right Option for Methow Headwaters
The Pacific Northwest, and especially Central Washington, is rightfully famous for our abundance of natural beauty. The Methow Valley in the northwestern corner of Okanogan County is a spectacular example of the pristine Washington landscape that we have the privilege to enjoy. The scenic valley serves as a gateway to the North Cascades National Park and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to fish, hunt, and hike. Recreation and tourism underpin the local economy.
Working together, the local community in the Methow has actively sought to preserve the valley’s unique rural character. Residents, the local Chamber of Commerce, hunters and anglers, farmers, and more than 150 businesses have joined in support for a 20-year withdrawal from mineral exploration in the Methow Headwaters area.
Okanogan County and the Okanogan Highlands region have historically cultivated a significant mining and resource-based economy, but there is clearly broad support among residents in the Methow Valley to support this proposal. As the 4th Congressional District’s representative, I support giving more control to local communities. The federal government should listen and respect local decisions, whether those decisions support development or conservation efforts.
Last week, I requested that federal agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Interior, act in accordance with local desire to remove the roughly 300,000 acre region from mineral development for the next 20 years. These federal agencies are responsible for evaluating the mineral withdrawal process, so I requested that they complete the environmental review and final recommendation before the required deadline of December 30, 2018.
The USDA and Department of Interior support initiatives to create a conservation stewardship legacy, promote agriculture and rural prosperity, and to be a good neighbor. I believe that the proposed withdrawal is entirely consistent with those goals. I support Methow Valley residents’ request for a 20-year mining exploration withdrawal, and the federal government should not only respect that desire, but work in an efficient way to make that desire a reality.

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