The Department of Homeland Security would not be able to use two big federal grant programs to pay for arming teachers, thanks to a provision tucked into House legislation that quietly passed this week.
The measure blocks the funds from being spent to provide anyone with a gun or train them to use one.
But Rep. Val Demings, D-Florida, made it clear the reason for including the provision was to protect teachers.
“Three months ago we heard rumors of plans to use precious homeland security funding to distribute guns to teachers,” Demings said. “Arming teachers would be both impractical and immoral.”
Officials from Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group. The National Rifle Association, which promotes gun rights and safety, did not respond to a request for comment.
President Donald Trump said publicly that he would support arming teachers following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed 17.
In February, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a former undersecretary at DHS during the George W. Bush administration,, called for the Trump administration to allocate some of those grant funds to arming teachers.
The federal programs, which give funds to states and localities for counter-terrorism efforts, provided more than $900 million worth of grants this fiscal year.
No one spoke against the new provision, part of a bill on vehicular counter-terrorism efforts. It passed by voice vote. Now it’s headed to the Senate.
Rep. Dan Donovan, R-N.Y., crafted the legislation after the October terrorist attack in Manhattan's lower west side. A terrorist drove a truck onto a bike path, killing eight people.
"Terrorists are evolving their methods and shifting their targets," Donovan explained.
The bill directs the Department of Homeland Security to research and develop new tools for combating vehicular attacks, as well as using grant resources "to address security vulnerabilities of public spaces, such as bus stops, bike paths, and other mass gathering locations."
The bill's chief purpose is to open the grant programs so they can be used terrorist attacks that make use of vehicles. Initiatives could include deterrents such as bollard construction.
Vehicular terrorism had not been a stated usage for the grant money. It had been targeted for purposes such as producing emergency plans and conducting training exercises.