House fails to pass bill creating active shooter alert system

House fails to pass bill creating active shooter alert system

The House on Wednesday failed to pass a bill that sought to create a communications network that would alert people when an active shooter is in their community.

The legislation, dubbed the Active Shooter Alert Act, was considered under suspension, a process that allows legislation to be passed quickly with two-thirds support. The bill did not reach that threshold, failing in a 259-162 vote despite having bipartisan sponsorship — 16 Republicans helped introduce the legislation.

One Democrat, Rep. Ron Kind (Wisc.), voted with 161 Republicans against the bill. Five Republicans and three Democrats did not vote.

The Hill reached out to Kind for a statement on his vote, and to Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the sponsor of the legislation, for information on why the vote failed.

The bill called for creating an Active Shooter Alert Communications Network, which would inform community members when active shooters are in their areas. The program, according to the bill’s sponsors, would function similarly to the AMBER Alert system.

The vote on the legislation came after the fatal mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas. Ten Black people were fatally shot at a grocery store in Buffalo, and 19 students and two adults were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

The fatal shootings drew widespread attention nationwide and sparked a renewed push for gun safety legislation on Capitol Hill.

The House passed a sweeping firearm package in the wake of the tragedies, in addition to a bill that seeks to nationalize red flag laws, which are meant to keep guns away from individuals deemed a threat to themselves and others.

On the Senate side, lawmakers this week released the legislative text for a bipartisan gun safety bill. The chamber advanced the bill in a bipartisan 64-34 vote on Tuesday.

The bill that failed to clear the House on Wednesday called on the attorney general to select an officer at the Department of Justice (DOJ) to serve as national coordinator of the Active Shooter Alert Communications Network.

That DOJ official would have been tasked with urging federal, state, tribal and local government agencies to implement steps to respond to active shooters, including plans for interstate or inter-jurisdictional travel — such as airports, border crossing areas and checkpoints.

The legislation also required that the Active Shooter Alert coordinator prepare a report on the effectiveness and status of the system in each state, tribe and local government. The first report would be expected no more than 18 months after the bill was enacted, and subsequent ones would be required every two years.

In remarks last week, after the legislation was voted out of committee, Cicilline (D-R.I.) said “law enforcement needs and deserves better tools than Twitter to communicate with the community” during active shooter situations.

“Active shooter events have become ubiquitous – so frequent that some of these horrific events barely make headlines. This is not normal, and we cannot let it be normalized. We cannot become numb to these events, and we cannot settle for the status quo,” Cicilline said.

“We have to give law enforcement every tool they need to neutralize these threats and keep our communities safe,” he added.

The Rhode Island Democrat said the legislation “will provide law enforcement with cutting-edge technology to send notifications to our smartphones and let communities know if there is an active shooter in a certain area – so that they know to stay away.”