WASHINGTON (AP) — Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Thursday that he's ashamed the United States is "becoming desensitized to the murder of children” and that action is needed now to prevent more lives from being lost in school shootings like the one in Uvalde, Texas.
Cardona spoke at a House Education and Labor Committee hearing two days after a gunman armed with an AR-15-style rifle stormed into an elementary school and killed 19 children and two teachers. The massacre, which followed the fatal of shootings of 10 people earlier this month at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store, has revived the debate over gun control.
On Thursday, committee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., opened the hearing by holding a moment of silence in memory of those who had died in Texas.
While the hearing was on the Education Department's budget and priorities, Cardona started his testimony by addressing the shooting.
“After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Parkland, after each of these and other massacres, we as educators did our best to look parents in their eyes and assure them that we'll do everything to protect their babies,” Cardona said, referencing school shootings in Colorado, Connecticut and Florida.
But he said all the actions taken in response to those earlier deadly school shootings — including active shooter drills, online early detection tools and more secure building entrances and perimeters — “are no match for what we're up against.”
Providing no specifics, he said, “we need action now” to protect America's children. “Let's not normalize this,” he said. “Let's use every ounce of influence that we have to get something done to help prevent this from happening again.”
Cardona didn’t go as far as his boss, President Joe Biden, who in an emotional address said Tuesday, “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?”
The Democratic president had called previously for a ban on assault-style weapons, tougher federal background check requirements and so-called red flag laws aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people with mental health problems.
The fight over guns has been split largely on party lines. Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a domestic terrorism bill that would have opened debate on gun safety.
Scott, in his opening remarks, called school shootings “too common of an occurrence” in America.
“We could have prevented a lot of these if elected leaders valued children and families more than guns," he said. “Instead, time and time again, Congress has failed to enact any sensible or widely supported proposals to respond to these tragedies and prevent another one from happening.”
Rep. Virginia Foxx, the ranking Republican on the committee, said her prayers were with the victims of the Uvalde school shooting, their families and the community, but she cautioned against a quick rush to action.
“We must be thoughtful about how we discuss and handle school safety and mental health issues,” said Foxx, of North Carolina. “Federal changes should not be made in haste.”
More on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings.
Carole Feldman, The Associated Press