RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Lawmakers in Congress are going to vote on something this week called the STOP School Violence Act. The House bill calls for more funding for school security, including threat assessment teams for schools, and better training for schools and law enforcement to detect dangerous behavior in kids. Noticeably absent, though, in this bill is any provision relating to firearms, which student survivors from the Parkland, Fla., shooting had been lobbying for. With me now is Democrat Ted Deutch. He represents the Florida district that includes Parkland. He's also one of this bill's co-sponsors.
Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.
TED DEUTCH: It's good to be with you. Thank you.
MARTIN: How are the measures in this bill going to prevent another Parkland shooting?
DEUTCH: Well, the measures in this bill are going to help try to prevent school violence by providing grants so that students and law enforcement and teachers can work together so they have tools to identify potential threats and can try to take action. It's an important bill. And it's a bill that we introduced weeks before the shooting at Stoneman Douglas. But this is not the bill that's going to address all of the problems. The fact is, we know the kinds of steps that have to be taken to do that. And yet the White House now announced that their response is a commission. I mean, it's been - 17 people were killed in Parkland, 20 in Sandy Hook. It's been 19 years since Columbine. And the White House's response to all of this is a commission, notwithstanding what the president said two seats away from me just a few weeks ago.
MARTIN: Notwithstanding what he said in that meeting - tell us what he said that made you think that.
DEUTCH: Well, the - sure. Well, the president said at that bipartisan meeting at the White House and made very clear that - to everyone at that meeting and everyone watching on television that we need initially right now to pass universal background checks because there is absolutely no reason that anybody should be able to buy a gun without undergoing a background check. That's the bare minimum.
MARTIN: He also talked about - right. And he also talked about raising the age requirement from 18 to 21 for someone to be able to buy a gun. He has - he's backed away from that now. Do you - why didn't the House bill try to include that here?
DEUTCH: Well, this is a piece of legislation that's been out there for a while now. And trust me, we're doing every - looking for every opportunity we can to take the background checks bill and add it on here. And we're looking for ways to do that now. But the fact is that there is broad support across the entire country for universal background checks. There's also broad support for banning weapons of war, it's important to point out. But background checks are something that should've been on the floor already. It's been almost a month since this school shooting in Parkland, Fla. - almost a month. And we haven't done a thing on the House floor.
Everyone knows the steps that need to be taken right now. We haven't even banned bump stocks and instead - something that would have helped in Las Vegas - not relevant here, but the kind of step that ought to be taken. If the Florida Legislature can take action to defy the NRA, it's about time that the United States Congress is brave enough to do the same thing.
MARTIN: Well, let me ask you about that. And I should just clarify what the president was talking about there was changing the age requirement specific to assault-style weapons. But you talk about the action that was taken in the Florida state Legislature where bump stocks were banned, and the Legislature there raised the age limit for buying weapons. President Trump has said the most significant change is likely to come at the state level. I mean, is he right? Does Congress even have a role in this moment? Have you kind of given up hope of making change at the national level?
DEUTCH: Of course - Rachel, of course, Congress has a role. And no, we haven't given up. And to the contrary, thanks to these brave students, this battle is really just now focusing where it should, which is the fact that on one side of this issue is virtually everyone in the country who understands that there is a need right now to take action to prevent mass shootings and prevent gun violence across the country. And on the other side of this debate is the NRA. That's it. And that clarity has been provided by these students. Congress has to act so that we have at least some strong gun laws nationwide so that people can't go to one state where the laws are very lax, load up on guns and take them to another state where the laws are tougher. That's why it's so important that there's a national standard here.
MARTIN: Congressman Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Florida - thank you so much for your time this morning.
DEUTCH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.