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The U.S House of Representatives passed a bipartisan legislation that calls for the creation of an active shooter communications network. The communications network will work similar to an Amber alert system that’s deployed whenever a child is abducted.
In a 260-169 vote, lawmakers approved the Active Shooter Alert Act, which was sponsored by Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI), and Fred Upton (R-Mich). The legislation was approved on Wednesday, July 13.
Nearly all votes in opposition were Republicans, with the exception of one. Democratic Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.), who is not running for re-election, voted with 168 Republicans in opposing the bill. Forty-three Republicans supported the measure.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said the bill was about “Democrat fear mongering that guns are an ever-present threat, and we cannot be safe until big government rounds up every last one of them.” He also 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,” Jordan said during debate on the House floor.
Active Shooter Alert System bill heads to Senate
The newly passed measure would allow law enforcement to deploy the alert system in emergency situations and notify the public about an active gunman in their community. Cicilline and Upton said it could be used in situations like what unfolded after the mass shooting in Highland Park, Ill., on the Fourth of July.
The measure would call on an officer at the Department of Justice to assume the role of national coordinator of the communications network. The attorney general would select who becomes the coordinator and they’d be responsible for encouraging federal, state, tribal and local government agencies to carry out steps for reacting to active shooter situations.
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.
In active shooter events of the past, authorities have had to resort to using Twitter and social media to tell the public about the situation according to Cicilline. “This is terribly inefficient and dangerous. Law enforcement needs and deserves better tools than Twitter to communicate with the community and the Active Shooter Alert Act answers that call,” Ciclline said in a statement.
The lower chamber initially tried to pass the bill in June under suspension. Suspension of the rules is 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.
With the bill being passed to the U.S. House, it will now head to the Senate.