House Republicans hope to set up a vote in the next few weeks on a bill to help schools predict and prevent acts of violence on school grounds, even as lawmakers continue to struggle for a broader agreement on legislation dealing with who can purchase a gun.
An aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the House this month would likely consider legislation authored by Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., that would authorize $50 million annually to provide schools with training and programs to prevent acts of violence like last month's Florida school shooting that left 17 dead.
The measure has bipartisan support. It does not address gun ownership or expanding background checks, but focuses on helping schools identify threats of violence and how to stop them before they happen.
"Our bill supports one very important layer of security for our schools," said Rutherford, who served as the Duval County, Fla., sheriff until 2015. "The best way to keep our students and teachers safe is to prevent violence from ever entering school grounds."
The Rutherford bill could be considered as early as the week of March 12.
It calls for schools to use the additional federal dollars to develop "FBI and Secret Service-based school threat assessment teams" to help identify potential threats. It would implement an anonymous reporting system for students to alert law enforcement to a potential threat and it would administer training for students, teachers, and police.
The measure calls for the federal money to be used to "provide significant improvement in school security."
Rutherford introduced the bill on Jan. 30, prior to the Feb. 14 shooting at a Coral Springs High School that left 17 people dead. Both local and federal law enforcement were warned about the shooter's mental state before he stormed the school with an AR-15 rifle on Valentine's Day.
Rutherford's bill has the backing of more than two dozen lawmakers, many of them from Florida.
Meanwhile, legislation that would bolster the background check system for gun purchases is stalled in the Senate. The "Fix NICS" bill would create incentives and penalties to get government agencies to report information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that's used to screen gun purchasers.
House lawmakers passed the Fix NICS background check bill in December and will wait for the Senate to act on it, the aide said. That could result in a long wait, as Republicans who control the floor schedule in the upper chamber have no plans in the coming weeks to bring up any gun control bill.
Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said the House also hopes to examine the FBI's role in failing to prevent the recent shooting. The House Judiciary and Oversight panels have been briefed by the FBI about the matter, she said.
"We are continuing discussions with our conference on other steps Congress might take in response to these tragedies beginning first and foremost with oversight so we better understand the problem," Strong said.