Sessions Prioritizes Background-Check Requirements

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Department of Justice released details of a proposed school violence prevention plan Monday featuring an increase in available funding to those schools who may wish to arm and train teachers.

The plan, which the department said would “better enforce our gun laws, support law enforcement, strengthen the firearms background check system and improve federal law enforcement’s response to tips,” features proposals for collaboration between the Department of Justice and various state and local law enforcement agencies.

Specifically, the department has proposed a grant initiative known as the COPS Hiring Program. It will prioritize the placement of former or current law enforcement officers as “school resource officers.”

“We are increasing the number of school resource officers, improving background checks and more aggressively prosecuting those who illegally attempt to purchase a firearm, and reviewing and enhancing the way our law enforcement agencies respond to tips from the public,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Monday.

The proposed improvements also feature firearms and “situational awareness training” to schools from law enforcement personnel and engagement by the department with the Federal Commission on School Safety.

The White House announced the formation of the commission just weeks after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is tapped to lead the commission.

On Monday, the department also promised a $1 million infusion of funding to the State of Florida which is “intended to defray the law enforcement overtime costs related to the response and subsequent crime scene investigation” at Marjory Stoneman.

Attorney General Sessions also expressed support to regulate bump stocks as machine guns under federal law, effectively banning the manufacture or sale of the devices.

Federal prosecutors will also soon receive marching orders from the Justice Department: lawyers should move “swiftly and aggressively” with “lie-and-try” cases, or cases against individuals who are barred from owning a firearm but lie about their background in order to best the federal background check system.

All federal agencies which report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System must also certify their compliance with the background check laws in 45 days, Sessions said.

State attorneys general and governors must also improve criminal justice data reports, the department said.

“Because the FBI has identified “missing dispositions,  or arrest records that lack a final disposition , as a significant issue, [Sessions] will provide every state with their respective level of disposition completion with the goal of urging those states who do not have an adequate level of reporting to focus on this issue and improve their reporting,” the announcement said.

Additional grants, the National Criminal History Improvement Program and the NICS Act Record Improvement Program, will also be made available to states who provide updated, accurate information to the national criminal background check system.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., slammed the department’s announcement as “inadequate and concerning.”

Scott, who serves as ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said  the administration “misplaced its focus on arming school personnel and dismantling civil rights protections for students instead of offering meaningful, evidence based solutions to gun violence prevention.”

He also rejected the idea of a DeVos-led commission, saying real solutions to curbing access to firearms is already available.

“While school security infrastructure is part of the conversation, evidence tells us that hardening schools fails to address the root cause of school violence,” Scott said. “Worse, it creates a culture of fear and anxiety that exacerbates the ‘school-to-prison’ pipeline.”

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