US Senator Elizabeth Warren and US Representative Katherine Clark sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos this week in which they cite Massachusetts as a model for gun safety and implored the Trump cabinet official to rebuff Republican efforts “to fund school security infrastructure at the expense of students’ access to mental health services.”
The two Democrats included with the letter the results of a recent nonscientific survey, conducted by their offices, of 384 Massachusetts teachers, parents, school administrators, and students that they said showed support for mental health services over security.
“Because the Commonwealth of Massachusetts consistently has the lowest rate of gun violence in the United States, Massachusetts teachers, parents, students, and administrators are uniquely positioned to comment on how policymakers can reduce gun violence in schools,” the letter said.
DeVos is leading the Federal Commission on School Safety, which was established by President Trump in March as a response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed the lives of 17 people. About a week after that shooting, the president suggested arming teachers as a security precaution.
In the survey from Warren and Clark, respondents cited universal background checks, “banning accessories designed to simulate military-grade automatic weapons,” enforcing “extreme risk protection orders,” and implementing waiting periods for gun purchases as policies that would “help reduce the risk of gun violence in schools.”
The survey, which included a series of multiple choice and open-ended questions, was sent to several education groups who they said distributed it to parents, principals, and other stakeholders.
Those groups included the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, Boston Teachers Union, Massachusetts Teachers Association, Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, Massachusetts School Administrators’ Association, Massachusetts Association of School Committees, and MassPartners.
In the study, 337 respondents (87.8 percent) indicated that arming teachers would not reduce the risk of gun violence in schools. The study also showed 90.6 percent of respondents said greater access to mental health services would lessen the chance of gun violence.
Clark and Warren said they hope that DeVos and the rest of the commission will keep these suggestions in mind as they conduct listening sessions this summer.
“I’m grateful that educators and other stakeholders in Massachusetts, who have achieved the lowest rate of gun violence in the country, have shared what works and what we all can do better to end these tragedies,” Clark said in a statement.
Federal data released in 2017 found that Massachusetts had the lowest rate of gun deaths in the country in 2015. There were 213 gun deaths in the state that year — a rate of 3.13 per 100,000 residents.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed a statement about reducing gun violence. The statement was made by Representative Katherine Clark.