Testifying before the Senate appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the Federal Commission on School Safety, which she chairs, will not look at the role of guns in a recent spate of school shootings.
In an exchange with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), DeVos said it is “not part of the commission’s charge per se” to look at the role of firearms as it relates to gun violence. Instead, DeVos said the commission will study “school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school.”
Leahy asked DeVos if she thinks an 18-year-old should be able to buy AR-15-style guns and ammunition.
“I believe that’s very much a matter for debate, and I know that’s been debated within this body and will continue to be,” DeVos replied. “Our focus is on raising up successful proven techniques and approaches to ensuring schools are safe for students to attend.”
The White House charged DeVos with leading a federal commission on school safety after a shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February left 17 dead. In a March press release, the White House said the commission will study and make recommendations on issues including “age restrictions for certain firearm purchases.”
HuffPost reached out to the Education Department to see if the commission still plans to make recommendations in this area, given DeVos’ comments Tuesday.
In response, department spokeswoman Elizabeth Hill clarified that the commission will still be making such recommendations.
“It is one of the 27 items to be addressed by the report,” Hill said in an email.
She also noted “that the commission cannot create or amend current gun laws — that is the Congress’ job.”
While speaking with Leahy, DeVos also said the commission will not look at countries where teens spend similar amounts of time playing video games or on social media but that do not have the same high rates of gun violence in schools as the U.S.
Leahy ended the exchange by noting that the commission “will look at gun violence in schools but not look at guns ― an interesting concept.”
DeVos has been holding listening sessions and events for her commission in recent weeks. On Wednesday, the commission is scheduled to hold a public listening session.