What Is a School Shooting? Members of Congress Seek a Federal Definition, Reliable Data

What Is a School Shooting? Members of Congress Seek a Federal Definition, Reliable Data

Police respond to the scene of a shooting at Heritage High School in Newport News, Va., on Saturday Sept. 20, 2021. Jahana Hayes was teaching in Waterbury on Dec. 14, 2012, when a gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School, about 20 miles away. Her own school went into lockdown, as did her son’s preschool. Then Hayes received a call from her husband, a Waterbury police officer. “He said, ‘it’s bad, really bad,’ ’’ Hayes recalled. Twenty-six children and educators were fatally shot before the gunman killed himself. Hayes, now a Democratic member of Congress, said the shooting strengthened her resolve to address gun violence. “As an educator and a parent … this is deeply personal for me‚’’ she said. “Now I have a responsibility as a legislator.” Hayes, whose district includes Sandy Hook, is a chief sponsor of a measure that directs federal departments to track data related to school shootings, from a shooter’s demographics to the type of weapon used. The bill also seeks to answer a basic question: what constitutes a school shooting? There is no federal definition of the term, leaving policymakers to rely on news accounts. “We’ve seen an uptick in school-based violence, school shootings, and it’s fascinating to me that there’s no official data collection means by the federal government so that we can clearly define a response or put preventive measures in place,’’ Hayes said. “On a very basic level, there’s no federal definition of what a school shooting is […]

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