Lawmaker questions whether NRA influenced Trump's school safety commission

The Education Department says the gun lobby is "absolutely not" involved.

President Donald Trump’s Federal Commission on School Safety, headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is facing questions from at least one lawmaker over whether the National Rifle Association influenced the commission's work to confront how to adequately protect schools from violence and mass shootings.

Sen. Patty Murray, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, in a letter to DeVos Monday, expressed her concerns about the commission’s "failure to act" and asked whether the NRA had influenced the process.

"I expressed concern that the Commission would be used to shift the national conversation about our gun violence epidemic away from meaningful gun safety reforms, which the vast majority of people across the country support," she wrote.

"I also expressed concern that in our private meeting, you could not assure me that the National Rifle Association (NRA) would not influence the Commission's process," Murray added.

Murray, D-Wash., wrote that she has yet to receive a response to a previous letter sent in March expressing the same sentiments.

The Department of Education spokesperson Liz Hill says the NRA is "absolutely not" involved in setting the scope of the commission's work.

DeVos has not met with the NRA to discuss the commission, and the gun lobby "will have no say and no sway" in the commission's work, she said.

ABC News has reached out to the NRA for comment.

When Trump initially launched the task force on school safety in March to explore how to prevent school violence in the wake of the Parkland massacre in February, the White House's statement announcing the commission's concentrations touted that the commission will study and make recommendations on "age restrictions for certain firearm purchases."

Last week, DeVos told the Senate Appropriations Committee that the school safety commission will not look at changing gun laws in their mission to make schools safer.

Murray was among the lawmakers present during the hearing.

"That is not part of the commission’s charge per se," DeVos said at a hearing on education funding.

"So you're studying gun violence, but not considering the roles of guns," Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont questioned.

"We're actually studying school safety and we can ensure our students are safe at school," the secretary replied.

Hill maintained Wednesday that the commission will "look at all issues the president asked the committee to study" amid repeated instances of school violence involving deadly weapons, including "age restrictions for certain firearm purchases."

But she shifted the responsibility of amending gun laws on the shoulders of lawmakers.

"If Senator Murray wants to change gun laws in this country, she should look to her own body, since Congress makes laws, not the commission," she told ABC News. "Senator Murray’s grandstanding does nothing to keep our nation’s students safe at school, while the federal commission on school safety is hard at work on behalf of our nations students and educators."

In the wake of the Newtown massacre, the Obama Administration formed a task force to examine how to protect children from mass shootings in schools. Their report did address the role of guns, recommending banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and closing background check loopholes.

The often controversial education secretary set off a stir for this testimony before members of Congress.

"What we heard yesterday only confirms what we already knew: The Trump administration is far more concerned with securing NRA support than addressing the root causes of gun violence — namely, our lax gun laws," said John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety.

The commission consists of four cabinet secretaries: DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. This group of administration officials, she said, is taking their cues from the White House, and remain "focused on making recommendations that the agencies, states, and local communities can implement."

DeVos has promised to issue a report from the school safety commission by "year's end."