On Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy Devos admitted during a Senate subcommittee hearing that actually, the newly formed school safety commission won’t look into the role of guns. DeVos has helmed the commission since 17 people were shot dead at Stoneman Douglas High School in February. Proving her fitness for this job, the secretary breezed into the school to talk “to three people, and pet a dog” as one student put it at the time.
When asked by Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, whether her commission would “look at the role of firearms as it relates to gun violence in our schools,” DeVos answered: “That is not part of the commission’s charge, per se.”
Leahy then reiterated: “So you’re studying gun violence but not considering the role of guns?”
DeVos deflected with a tautologically nonsensical response: “We’re actually studying school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school.” (Hard to study school safety from gun violence if gun violence is not part of your commission’s charge, but then again, I’m not the official school safety expert.)
The secretary could not even give a straight answer when Leahy asked whether or not 18-year-olds should be able to buy an assault weapon, saying, “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.”
The Education Department released a statement to reporters shorty after the exchange, to clarify, and maybe do some damage control:
The secretary and the commission continue to look at all issues the President asked the committee to study and are focused on making recommendations that the agencies, states and local communities can implement. It’s important to note that the commission cannot create or amend current gun laws — that is the Congress’ job.
But what has DeVos’ commission actually been focusing on? Rolling back Obama-era guidance that pushed schools to be less punitive when disciplining students to help reduce the school-to-prison pipeline. DeVos has also looked into the influence video games and even “the effects of press coverage of mass violence,” according to Politico.
Anything to avoid thinking about guns, I guess. Won’t you think of the children mauled by bears?