House passes active shooter alert system following failed vote last month

U.S. Capitol
Greg Nash
The U.S. Capitol is seen from Pennsylvania Ave. on Monday, July 11, 2022.

The House on Wednesday approved legislation that calls for the creation of an active shooter communications network, which would notify community members when an active shooter is in their neighborhood.

The legislation, titled the Active Shooter Alert Act, passed the House in a 260-169 vote. Democratic Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.) voted with 168 Republicans in opposing the bill. Forty-three Republicans supported the measure.

Republican leadership recommended that lawmakers vote against the measure, according to a GOP congressional aide.

The lower chamber initially tried to pass the bill — which has bipartisan sponsors — last month under suspension, a fast-track process that allows bills to be passed quickly if they have two-thirds support. The measure did not garner enough votes in the 259-162 tally. 

That night, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed that the House would bring up the measure again and said Democrats in the chamber would pass it.

The bill seeks to establish an Active Shooter Alert Communications Network, a system that would advise individuals when an active gunman is in their community. Supporters have said the program would work in a way that is similar to the Amber Alert system.

It has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Police Foundation, among other groups. Additionally, the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday said the administration “strongly supports” the bill’s passage.

The measure would call on an officer at the Department of Justice to assume the role of national coordinator of the communications network. That individual, selected by the attorney general, would be responsible for encouraging federal, state, tribal and local government agencies to carry out steps for reacting to active shooter situations.

That includes plans pertaining to travel across states and jurisdictions, including airports, border crossing locations and checkpoints, according to the bill.

The national coordinator would also be required to write a report on the program’s effectiveness in regions that implemented the communications network and urge states and governments to embrace best practices.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), a sponsor of the bill, called the measure “common sense,” adding that “we have to give law enforcement every tool they need to neutralize these threats and keep our communities safe.”

“This bill helps do that in a simple, effective way. It’s not complicated,” he said during debate on the House floor. “It simply adds a tool to the tool belt of law enforcement all across the country, regardless of their size or location, to be used voluntarily.”

The Rhode Island Democrat said that during active shooter situations, “law enforcement are too often relying on social media to warn people so that no one accidentally walks into the line of fire or a crime scene.”

“Law enforcement deserves better than Twitter to communicate with the community they serve,” he added.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), a co-sponsor of the bill, listed a number of shootings that have occurred in the U.S.

“[In] media reports, the initial sounds were thought to be fireworks. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have had a system that would have alerted the entire parade route to take cover, and maybe some of those folks that were killed or wounded wouldn’t have happened?” Upton said on the House floor, referring to the July 4 shooting during a parade in Highland Park, Ill.

A handful of Republicans objected to the measure.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) described the bill as “an unnecessary gimmick to cede more authority to the already highly politicized Biden Department of Justice.”

He argued that existing systems are achieving the same goals.

“Federal, state and local officials already use the Integrated Public Alert Warning System, IPAWS, to send emergency alerts to mobile devices and to alert media platforms,” he said during debate on the House floor.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) contended that the measure is “another example of Washington creating another department, another position, spending more money we don’t have in order to have a policy objective of continuing to advance fear among the American people.”

Tags Active shooter active shooter response David Cicilline Fred Upton Jim Jordan Nancy Pelosi Ron Kind
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