Bowdich, David L

As Students March for Gun Control, House Votes to Beef Up School Security

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The House measure, which passed 407 to 10 as dozens of students looked down from the visitors’ gallery, is one of a flurry of school safety bills that have been introduced in Congress — without curbs on guns.

It authorizes $500 million over 10 years for safety improvements, including training teachers and students in how to prevent violence and developing anonymous tip lines to detect threats. The money could also be used for physical improvements, such as metal detectors, but at the insistence of Democrats, a provision was added that bars the money from being used to arm teachers.

Known as the STOP School Violence Act, the bill was sponsored by Representative John Rutherford, a Republican and former sheriff of Jacksonville, Fla., who called it “an important first step towards keeping our students and our teachers safe.”


David L. Bowdich, the acting deputy director of the F.B.I., was grilled by Senate Judiciary Committee members about the bureau’s failure to follow up on at least two credible tips related to the Parkland, Fla., gunman. Credit Tom Brenner/The New York Times

White House officials have said President Trump supports the measure; a similar one has been introduced in the Senate.

But Democrats lamented that it did not go far enough.

“The bill is fine as far as it goes, and we should certainly do more to make our schools safer,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York. “But it is shameful that we must do so because of our failure to reduce the threat of gun violence to children.”

On the Senate side of the Capitol, Mr. Bowdich, of the F.B.I., suffered a grilling from Judiciary Committee members about the bureau’s failure to follow up on at least two credible tips related to the Parkland gunman, Nikolas Cruz.

The first tip, in September, came via email, from a bail bondsman in Mississippi who spotted a suspicious comment on a YouTube channel by a “nikolas cruz” who said he intended to become “a professional school shooter.” The second came in January from a woman who called the agency’s tip line and said, “I know he’s going to explode.”

“In my judgment we have seen a catastrophic and systemic failure of law enforcement at every level,” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said, before asking Mr. Bowdich if he believed that the F.B.I. “had committed serious, grave errors.”

Mr. Bowdich’s reply was succinct: “Yes, sir, I do.”

The committee also heard emotional testimony from Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was among the 17 people killed at Stoneman Douglas High School, and Katherine Posada, a language arts teacher at the school.

“Nikolas Cruz and the danger that he posed were the worst kept secret in Parkland,” Mr. Petty said.

Ms. Posada chided lawmakers for what was an apparent partisan divide, with Republicans confining their questions to law enforcement issues and Democrats using the session to put a spotlight on gun control.

“This is not a partisan issue,” the teacher said. “The children of Republicans can fall victim to bullets.”

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Wendy Pettit

Wendy Pettit is a writer for NYT and writes for other publications on her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and her dog Zuko.

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