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Gun violence in the US

US House won’t provide money to arm teachers with guns

A provision tucked into a federal grant programme bill blocks money from being spent to provide anyone with a gun or the training to use one

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 June, 2018, 1:47am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 June, 2018, 4:02am

The US Department of Homeland Security will not be able to use two big federal grant programmes to pay for arming teachers, thanks to a provision tucked into US House legislation that quietly passed this week.

The measure blocks the money from being spent to provide anyone with a gun or train them to use one.

But Representative Val Demings, Democrat of Florida, made it clear that the reason for including the provision was to protect teachers.

“Three months ago we heard rumours of plans to use precious homeland security funding to distribute guns to teachers,” Demings said. “Arming teachers would be both impractical and immoral.”

US President Donald Trump said he would support arming teachers after the shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17.

In February, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Department of Homeland Security undersecretary during the George W. Bush administration, called for the Trump administration to allocate some of those grant funds to arm teachers.

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The federal programmes, which give funds to states and localities for counterterrorism efforts, provided more than US$900 million worth of grants this financial year.

No one spoke against the new provision, part of a bill on vehicular counterterrorism efforts. Having passed by voice vote, it now is headed to the Senate.

Representative Dan Donovan, Republican of New York, proposed the legislation after an October terrorist attack in Manhattan, when a man drove a truck onto a bike path, killing eight people.

“Terrorists are evolving their methods and shifting their targets,” Donovan said.

The bill would direct the Department of Homeland Security to research and develop new tools for combating vehicular attacks, as well as using grant resources “to address security vulnerabilities of public spaces, such as bus stops, bike paths and other mass gathering locations”.

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The bill’s chief purpose is to open the grant programmes so they can be used to deter terrorist attacks that make use of vehicles. Initiatives could include deterrents such as the construction of short posts, or bollards, that can prevent traffic from entering an area.

Vehicular terrorism had not been a stated usage for the grant money. It had been targeted for purposes such as producing emergency plans and conducting training exercises.