VIDEO & STORY -- U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) talked to students from Appoquinimink and Middletown high schools about school safety and guns in a question-and-answer session today, April 20, at Middletown High School.
Students from Appoquinimink and Middletown high schools got the chance today to ask a U.S. Senator about his opinions on guns and what he's doing to prevent gun violence in schools.
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) met with students from both schools at a question-and-answer session at Middletown High School.
Students asked about:
How can high school students be heard on the issues of school safety and gun violence and how do you keep the discussion alive in Congress after all the media coverage has subsided?
Coons said ways to keep attention focused on the issue is asking lawmakers about it over and over and over, just like the students are doing at this question-and-answer session.
"You all are looking at me and as a parent I'm looking at young people right now who want me to do something," he said. "Keep that up."
Coons said the demonstrations about school safety are having an effect because lawmakers talk to each other about them, asking what's happening in their states.
He said he worked with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania on a bi-partisan bill to strengthen background checks so that if a check says a felon or a person with a mental health problem tried to buy a gun, the information would be sent to the state and local police. Right now in Delaware, Coons said no one is notified, but in Pennsylvania state police are notified if a person prohibited from buying a gun tries to buy one, which is a crime. The federal bill would require that information to be shared with state and local police in every state.
"That at least strengthens the enforcement of existing laws," he said.
Should federal and state funds be reallocated to protect schools and what would the impact be on taxpayers?
"We're dedicating a lot of resources, time and effort to making sure we've done what we can," said Coons.
He said he favors "investing more broadly and making sure that we've changed the culture of school so there's less bullying, less marginalization. Part of being teenagers is that there are social dynamics but we can deal with it in a way that makes school less hard and less painful for some people and that there's more resources available in terms of counseling and guidance and support -- because we shouldn't have to wait for a huge tragedy that's on the national news to deal with what's going on week in and week out, so that you can focus on what ought to be occupying you."
Should teachers be armed?
He opposes arming teachers. He said his mother and grandmother were teachers and he has friends who are teachers, and he knows they are required to do so much already.
"To ask teachers to be trained and competent in the use of a firearm in a school setting in what would inevitably be a chaotic setting with a whole lot of innocent people is to ask a lot," he said. "If there are going to be people armed in and around schools, I would prefer them to be police officers or school resource officers who are specifically trained for and dedicated to that."
Should mental health resources in schools be increased?
"Absolutely," Coons said. "You hear a lot about guns, gun control and gun safety, but we ought to be investing just as much in mental health."
He called for more mental health professionals in schools and a "culture shift" that promotes a kinder culture to prevent bullying and to prevent students from feeling ostracized.
What are the effects of calls for gun control on the gun and ammunition companies, the jobs they provide, and the economy in towns and cities where guns and ammunition are manufactured?
Coons said he is in favor of gun ownership for personal protection and hunting, but he has sponsored legislation to restrict the sale of assault weapons and "magazines" that hold multiple rounds of ammunition.
However, he said the effect of calls for gun control have actually results in increased gun sales.