WASHINGTON - In the first hearing in the U.S. House related to the Sandy Hook school massacre in December, the panel's six witnesses unanimously rejected proposals to place armed police and guards in every school in the country.
The hearing in the House Education Committee, chaired by 2nd District Republican Rep. John Kline, were marked by a subdued, wonkish tone. No victims of gun violence or their relatives testified. Instead, a panel of six experts delivered measured testimony about the roles of police assigned to schools, counseling services and mental health programs.
So far, Kline has introduced no legislation related to the school shootings and made it clear in his opening remarks that the committee would not move anywhere near as rapidly as the traditionally slow-moving Senate has.
"The purpose of today's hearing is not to assign blame," said Kline. "It isn't about a press release or a bill introduction or a media opportunity."
When the entire witness panel was asked by New Jersey Democrat Rob Andrews whether they supported proposals introduced by state lawmakers around the country and a measure touted by the National Rifle Association to arm teachers and station more armed police in schools, the result was a unanimous "no."
"It's a very dangerous, risky proposition," said David Osher, a vice president with the nonpartisan American Institutes for Research, who has conducted extensive research on violence prevention in schools.
The committee's Republican members mostly sought to avoid discussion of the role of guns in shooting incidents and allowed the witnesses to discuss issues such as bullying and schools situated in crime-ridden communities.
Other witnesses included Bill Bond, who's currently a school safety specialist with the National Assocociation of Secondary School Principals. Bond was also the principal of Heath High School in Paducah, KY when a student opened fire and killed three students in 1997.
Bond emphasized the need for schools to constantly update their contingency plans for events such as shootings and also said that there were limitations to deploying additional cameras and metal detectors at schools.
"If they really want to, kids will find a way around all your security equipment," said Bond.
The House hearing came as the Senate Judiciary Committee, which counts both of Minnesota's Democratic U.S. Senators among its members, held hearings on a proposed ban on the assault-style weapons that were used at Sandy Hook and other recent mass shootings. That committee is expected to vote on draft legislation as early as Thursday.