Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) today said they were pleased to learn that the U.S. Department of Justice will create a national center for public safety on school campuses, an idea advocated by the VTV Family Outreach Foundation.
Wolf and Scott have been working with the families and victims of the shootings at Virginia Tech to create a center through Scott's Campus Safety Act, which Wolf has supported in the 112th and current Congress. The Center would train campus public safety agency personnel, encourage research to strengthen college safety and security and serve as a clearinghouse for the dissemination of relevant campus public safety information.
The measure has strong support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and a companion bill, sponsored by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), recently advanced in the Senate.
Wolf, chairman of the subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in January to reprogram existing monies to establish the center. Holder, in a letter this week to Wolf, said he would.
"Keeping our communities safe, particularly our schools, is paramount," Wolf said today. "I am especially pleased that these programs can be enacted using funds that have already been appropriated and will cost American taxpayers nothing. I am also appreciative of the hard work my colleague Bobby Scott has done to keep students on campuses across America safe, and I look forward to working together on this issue moving forward."
Scott also applauded Holder's acceptance of their proposal.
"I am pleased that DOJ has agreed to create the National Center for Campus Public Safety," he said. "In the wake of the Newtown tragedy and almost six years since the shootings at Virginia Tech, it is clear that violence at our schools is a national problem that must be addressed. There is a wealth of information available to help schools prevent such violence and effectively respond if and when such incidences occur. Creating a National Center for Campus Public Safety will ensure that our nation's schools have better access to this critical information."
Holder also said DOJ will use existing funds to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) records, the National Record Improvement Program (NARIP) and the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP). He wrote that this "will improve the effectiveness of the background system and lead to a reduction in gun violence."
A separate letter today from Assistant Attorney General Judith Appelbaum to Wolf indicated that DOJ will include $14 million in grants to address the immediate gun safety issues, as well as $6 million in planned NCHIP grants and $5 million in NARIP grants. Further, Appelbaum said about $1 million from existing funding would be used to create the national center for public safety within the next 30 days.
Wolf has long-advocated for a three-pronged approach to addressing mass violence. In February, Wolf released a report compiled by an advisory committee to the National Science Foundation (NSF) that details three major risk factors associated with mass shootings, including exposure to violent media, mental health, and access to guns.
Read Wolf's January letter to Holder below: