Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, delivered the following remarks during the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations hearing entitled, “Preventable Violence in America: An Examination of Law Enforcement Information Sharing and Misguided Public Policy”
Mr. Chairman, it is appropriate for the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime to conduct hearings to examine ways to prevent the victimization of our citizens by violent acts. I hope that, as a result of today’s hearing, we will find ways to make our country safer but, before addressing the issues that appear to be the focusses of this hearing, I must note two things.
First, this hearing is being conducted in the aftermath of the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida five weeks ago. In the time since that tragedy, in which 17 students and staff were shot and killed, we should have conducted hearings about shortcomings in our gun laws and we should have advanced legislation to strengthen them.
We know that we must also plug the gaping holes in the background check system that is designed to help prevent illegal gun transfers and possession. We must also explore ways to help states establish extreme risk protection orders in emergency situations when someone presents a danger to themselves or others. And, we must enact legislation to ban certain devices, such as assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, which have no place on our streets.
Unfortunately, there has reportedly been another school shooting this morning, at Great Mills High School about 70 miles from here in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. There are reports that several people were shot, and we can only hope there will be no fatalities. We cannot simply watch this happen again and again, and take no action.
But this Committee has not done what is needed.
And I fear that this hearing is designed as a way to dodge those critical issues relating to firearms and as a way to deflect attention from the failure of this Congress to fix what is broken with respect to our firearms laws.
Certainly, we should examine the mechanisms we employ to encourage and allow citizens to report the fact that someone is planning to commit a violent crime. Recently, I attended a briefing conducted by the FBI’s Deputy Director, who will testify today, at which he explained how the Bureau and its contract employees did not follow up appropriately to the tips they had received about Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter. In those instances, the system did not work. We need to know why, and how to fix the flaws, while also ensuring that the evaluation of such tips involves due process for the subjects of these reports.
Also, the issue of school discipline is a worthy topic of discussion – so long as it is constructive and not intended to undermine progress in reforming disciplinary policies that have been racially biased and counterproductive for a long time. Unfortunately, some individuals are advancing the charge that reforms to these policies contributed to the Parkland shooter not having been stopped. To use a horrific mass shooting as a pretext to halt progress on these much-needed reforms is offensive.
Similarly, we must not accept claims that we need to arm teachers or to ratchet up law enforcement intervention in our schools. We can keep our children safe and, at the same time, stop the school-to-prison pipeline.
In conclusion, I hope we can find a way to learn lessons from this hearing about law enforcement’s processing of tips, and the need to adopt sound, evidenced-based, and unbiased disciplinary policies for our schools. But, examining these issues is no substitute for hearings and legislative action to fix our gun laws. We know what we need to do to protect our children, and all of our citizens, from gun violence, and we should act without further delay.