School safety, gun control bill fails

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OLYMPIA — A last-minute push for a multifaceted school safety bill containing contentious gun control provisions appears to have hit a political dead-end, bringing down with it several bipartisan measures regarding emergency notification and the availability of school resource officers in schools.

Though the bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, tried to bring the legislation to the Senate floor Tuesday, the Senate adjourned without voting on the measure. With a single day left in the 2018 legislative session, time is quickly running out for proposals to move through the legislature.

This legislation came in response to a string of high-profile school shootings within the last year, both in Parkland, Florida and in Freeman, Washington, seeking to address several different facets of school safety during a shooting.

The measure contains five major provisions. One would direct law enforcement to work with schools create an emergency notification system while another would create a mobile app called Students Protecting Students that could be used to report concerning incidents to school officials.

A third provision would create two safety centers on either side of the Cascades to coordinate school mental health assessments; a fourth would create a grant program to fund more school resource officers.

These four provisions all had bipartisan support, but the fifth and final provision — considered by both supporters and critics to be the true focus of the bill — would ban anyone under 21 years old from purchasing a semi-automatic rifle of any kind. This provision also contained language that would have made background checks more rigorous for the sale of semi-automatic weapons.

Disagreements over this provision appears to have sunk any chance to pass other sections of the bill, most of which failed to move forward as stand-alone bills.

The Students Protecting Students provision took its lead from a bill of the same name sponsored by Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, that would have worked to create a mobile app middle and high school students could use to report concerning behavior or incidents. Manweller, who has for several years sponsored similar legislation only to have it falter in a Democrat-controlled House, was concerned to see it revived in this fashion.

“I’m disappointed that my bipartisan school safety bill was attached to a gun control bill,” Manweller said in an email. “One of the more appealing facets of my bill is that it improved school safety without limiting 2nd Amendment rights. I would like to see my Students Protecting [sic] bill run as a stand-alone bill.”

Another proposal that seemed revived by the bill would have created two school safety centers was a watered-down alternative to legislation requested by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The OSPI’s request legislation would have created nine mental health coordinators to serve each of the state’s educational service districts, but the measure was considered too costly and failed to move forward.

The legislature did not bring the proposal to the Senate floor Wednesday, indicating the bill and its provisions are dead.

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