Middletown, CT - U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined Middletown officials, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents and the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education at Middletown’s Snow School Friday to discuss the critical need for renewed federal funding for school safety. Blumenthal is a co-sponsor of the School and Campus Safety Enhancement Act that recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee that would reauthorize the Secure Our Schools Grant Program. The renewed program would provide $40 million in annual grants over the next ten years for security-related capital improvements, training, and security assessments.
The first Secure Our Schools (SOS) program was enacted in 2000, providing 50/50 matching grants to local school districts to help pay for security-related capital improvements. Since then, 5,500 schools nationwide have received SOS funds, including 15 in Connecticut totaling $1.15 million. The latest reauthorization would renew and increase funding for the program, and would expand eligible uses for the grants, including creation of school security tip lines. The legislation would also create a joint Department of Justice and Department of Education task force that would develop advisory school safety guidelines to assist local districts.
Since the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, 262 students, teachers and others have been killed or wounded in K-12 school shootings, not including the dozens more who have been killed and injured by gun violence on college campuses. Unfortunately, school shootings are becoming more prevalent. Between 2009 and 2011, there were 43 school shootings, representing two-thirds of the total number of shootings that took place the entire preceding decade.
“Newtown was a tragic call to action across many fronts. We have a responsibility to act to ensure the safety of our children, our schools and our communities, and that includes providing our schools with the funding they need to make critical investments in the security of their buildings. But our efforts cannot stop there. We must take action to keep guns and ammunition out of the wrong hands, to keep weapons of war out of our neighborhoods, to repair our broken mental health system, and to help law enforcement enforce the laws already on the books. We owe the victims of Newtown -- and the 2,500 others who have died from gun violence since then --- decisive action that will make a difference,” Blumenthal said.
Middletown Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patricia Charles welcomed Senator Blumenthal to the district. “His work on behalf of the safety of the children in Middletown and across the country is very much appreciated. No child should go to school fearful of violence. The funding for districts to enhance school security comes at such a critical time when schools are looking to improve their security in a climate when resources are tight. Every school should be a safe place of learning. The reauthorization of the School and Campus Safety Enhancement Act will help us attain this goal,” said Middletown Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patricia Charles.
Joseph Ciracuolo, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents said: “As we all strive to make our schools as safe as they can be for children and the adults who serve them and still allow them to be places where children are in an environment that is conducive to learning, it heartening to know that members of the Congress are willing to do their part to achieve this goal. It is particularly heartening to know that Connecticut’s senators are leaders in this effort.”
In addition to the School and Campus Safety Enhancement Act, the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Blumenthal is a member, has passed several critical gun safety measures, including most recently the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, which passed on Thursday. The bill, co-sponsored by Blumenthal, would ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013, and the Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act passed last week. The Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013, which Blumenthal co-sponsored, gives law enforcement extensive new tools to combat straw purchasing and gun trafficking. The Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act would require a background check for all firearm sales and ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
“On the three-month anniversary of the Newtown massacre, the Committee’s approval of a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines demonstrates powerfully that the Connecticut effect is not going away. Military-style assault weapons are designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible as shown so tragically and horribly in Newtown. Some or all of the 20 beautiful children and six great educators gunned down three months ago today would likely be alive if assault weapons and high-capacity clips had been banned. I urge Senators on both sides of the aisle to keep faith with the victims of the Newtown tragedy and the more than 2,500 people who have died as a result of gun violence since the tragedy. When the assault weapons ban and high-capacity magazines prohibition reach the Senate floor, I urge bipartisan approval of both. There should be nothing partisan about protecting our children and families from gun violence,” Blumenthal said.