President Trump's school safety commission will not be looking at role of guns, chair says

Its first meeting was held in Maryland last week without most of its members.

June 5, 2018, 2:58 PM

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, chair of President Donald Trump's Federal Commission on School Safety, said Tuesday the group would not look at the role of guns in their examination of school safety.

“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 responded.

"We're actually studying school safety and we can ensure our students are safe at school," DeVos said.

"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," U.S. Department of Education Press Secretary Liz Hill told ABC News. "It’s important to note that the commission cannot create or amend current gun laws—that is the Congress’ job."

President Trump established the group of four cabinet secretaries — Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kristen Nielsen, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar — on March 12 to "recommend policy and funding proposals for school violence prevention."

The commission held its first "field visit" on May 31 at a Maryland elementary school. Three of the four secretaries who make up the school safety commission, Nielsen, Azar and Sessions, did not go and sent surrogates to the meeting.

The Department of Education declined to comment on the secretaries' absences. Other departments did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Earlier this month, Sessions, Nielsen and Azar all opted out of another planned meeting due to "unforeseen scheduling conflicts" and DeVos met with stakeholders, including officials who have dealt with the fallout from the shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech, as well as parents of victims from Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland, alone.

The full commission last met as a full group in March where they discussed logistics, staffing, timeline, and scope, according to an Education Department readout.

DeVos says she hopes to have an interim report before a "year's end" findings are released.

ABC's Erin Dooley contributed to this report.

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