Following a visit to the site of America’s latest school massacre, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is demanding lawmakers take new action on guns.
Cardona left Uvalde, Texas, on Wednesday following stops at Robb Elementary and the funeral mass for Irma and Joe Garcia — a teacher who died in last week’s mass school shooting, and her spouse, who succumbed to a heart attack days after the killings. The secretary met with school officials and attended services for children who had been looking forward to summer break.
He saw a community in grief.
“If that’s not enough motivation for us to recognize that we need to include sensible legislation to provide more gun safety in this country, then we have a bigger problem,” Cardona said in an interview with POLITICO on Thursday. “If the murder of children is not enough for people to recognize that these conversations have to happen, then I’m very concerned.”
The secretary’s call arrived ahead of a planned prime-time address on firearms by President Joe Biden, while talks in Washington, D.C., over action to address gun violence seem destined to sputter and local school officials look ahead to the next threat. Yet as conservative politicians plan to avert new attacks with bolstered school security and mental health services, the Biden appointee made clear that he views guns as part of the problem.
“Schools have done a lot to become safer,” said Cardona, a former Connecticut principal who saw how campuses set up single points of entry and preliminary background checks for visitors, in addition to now-ubiquitous emergency drills and training for active shooters, after a gunman killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary.
“What we’re not seeing much of is an urgency and an appetite to have conversations around topics that the majority of American people want: sensible legislation to help curb these risks, that help curb access to assault weapons that can take out 20 children in less than 10 minutes,” Cardona said. “There’s no appetite for that.”
Connecticut’s two Democratic senators are talking up a potential legislative deal on gun safety, even as they acknowledge bills as significant as restoring the long-lapsed “assault weapons” ban are already off the table in their chamber.
Meanwhile in Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has set out new orders for the state’s school security overseer and local districts to take on before the fall semester.
Abbott, in a letter to officials Wednesday, charged the Texas School Safety Center and Texas Education Agency with carrying out “random inspections” and “unannounced, random intruder detection audits” to find weak points on campuses.
All state school systems are further expected to review their threat assessment plans, schedule safety drills and assess “access control procedures” such as school entryways, visitor entryways and locked doors.
“Some want to point and say ‘we need to tighten up our schools,’ or ‘these are mental health issues’ and ignore that there are other things that have to happen,” Cardona said. “I think it’s very shortsighted to think that looking at one strategy alone is going to solve this.”
“You could have the most secure building,” the secretary added. “And the locks on the door are no match for an AR-15 in the hands of a kid who has bad intentions.”
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