March 14, 2018
Grassley: We Must Hold Government Accountable for Failures Before Parkland Tragedy
Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Senate Judiciary Committee
“See Something, Say Something:
the Parkland Shooting and legislative Proposals to Improve School Safety”
March 14, 2018
morning. We are here this morning to discuss a national tragedy and to mourn
the loss of 17 innocent lives.
February 14, 2018, attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland,
Florida, was an evil act committed by a troubled young man.
will account for what he has done in a court of law. But today, we will also
call the government to account for its role in this tragedy.
state, and local officials each received tips about the alarming behavior of
the Parkland shooter. Their failure to act allowed the Parkland shooter to
obtain and continue to possess firearms.
the wake of the Parkland attack, this Committee has an obligation to find out
what happened. We must hold government to account for its failures, and make
sure plans are in place to avoid future tragedies. And we must rally around
consensus, evidenced-based solutions that will protect our nation’s most
valuable resource—it’s youth—from violent attacks.
worry that political opportunists will seek to interject their extreme agendas
into this debate. That might be good for party politics and fundraising for the
midterms, but it is not good for America.
saw this happen after the Newtown shooting. After Newtown, I worked with my
colleague Senator Cruz to introduce legislation that would have:
reporting to the NICS background check system;
grants to support school safety measures and programs;
the prosecutions of dangerous people who lied to try to buy firearms;
authorized a government study to solve the problem of mass shootings.
law could’ve helped prevent tragedies like the Sutherland Springs and Parkland
majority of the Senate supported our bill, on a bipartisan basis. Tragically it
was held hostage by partisan politics, and did not pass. Senator Cruz and I
reintroduced the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment
Act of 2018 last week.
addition, I’ve worked with Senator Hatch to draft the STOP School Violence
Act, which will provide needed funding to increase school safety. That bill
is now cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 36 senators.
also a cosponsor of Senator Cornyn’s Fix NICS bill, which is supported by 68
Senators. I also support the President’s effort to regulate bump stocks.
today I want to announce that I will be introducing the Marjory Stoneman
Douglas High School Memorial Act of 2018. This bill will provide funding to
support the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center’s efforts to
conduct cutting edge research into the prevention of school violence. It will
also enable the National Threat Assessment Center to train more of our nation’s
schools in how to conduct threat assessments and early interventions.
Secret Service has already trained 93,000 government officials, school
administrators, teachers, and law enforcement officials in implementing
effective threat assessment programs. This training enables local communities
to prevent dangerous and unstable individuals like the Parkland shooter from
carrying out intended attacks.
bill will enable the National Threat Assessment Center to share its proven
techniques and research with more of our nation’s school systems. It is a
fitting memorial to the victims and survivors of the Parkland attack, and will
help prevent future violence. I invite all of my colleagues on this Committee
to support this bill as a cosponsor.
think it’s clear that we have a number of bills that the Senate can come
together to support that can reduce school violence and mass shootings. Some on
this Committee have said that we’re not taking action—that we’re not holding
hearings and marking up bills on this issue.
is the second hearing on mass shootings and related legislation that we’ve had
in four months. That’s more hearings than the last Democratic Chairman held on
this issue at this point in his tenure as Chairman, despite the D.C. Sniper
attacks, the Virginia Tech shooting, and other attacks during that time period.
for markups, I’ve had discussions with Senate Leadership and members of this
Committee on both sides of the aisle on how we can enact legislation that will
help prevent violent attacks. Often, as my Democratic colleagues well know,
legislation on controversial issues such as Second Amendment issues are of
concern to the entire Senate. It’s common for bills on these issues to bypass
Committee, and to be brought straight to the floor. This is the strategy the
Democrats used when they brought up Senator Manchin and Senator Toomey’s bill
on universal background checks when they were in charge. That bill went
straight to the floor without a hearing or markup, where it was debated by the
possible that a similar approach may be used now as the Senate works together
to consider what should be done about school safety and preventing mass
violence. In the meantime, we’re holding this hearing, which I believe is of
great importance for the entire Senate, and indeed, the country.
hope today’s hearing can shed light on what government can do better to prevent
the shooting, I instructed my staff to investigate what went wrong. Officials
from the FBI have briefed the Committee’s majority and minority staff.
also heard from representatives from Facebook, Instagram, Google, and YouTube.
They outlined their efforts to work closely with law enforcement and to quickly
respond to inquiries in the Parkland case and similar cases. In briefings to
the Committee, Google and Facebook officials noted that the FBI didn’t reach
out to them to help identify and locate the shooter. If the FBI had done so,
both companies said that they would’ve been able to provide detailed
information, including IP addresses.
That information likely would’ve provided the FBI with a physical
also highlighted their efforts to use technology and user feedback to identify
alarming content that should be referred to law enforcement for further
investigation. I want to thank them for their willingness to meet and discuss
these very important issues and for sending their representative to the hearing
also want to thank Ryan Petty, the father of Alaina Petty, who was a victim of
the Parkland attack, and Katharine Posada, a language arts teacher at Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School, for being with us today. We mourn your loss and
look forward to your testimony and your perspective on this issue.
Committee also invited Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel to testify. He
seen the Sheriff all over television discussing the shooting, so it is
disappointing the he has refused to speak before Congress.
Carroll, Secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families, was also
invited. His Department investigated and interviewed the shooter before the
attack. And, then appears to have dropped the ball. He, too, has refused to
appear, even though Governor Scott didn’t oppose his attendance.
thumbing their noses at Congress, Sheriff Israel and Secretary Carroll have let
the American people down and also the citizens of Florida they serve.
we will discuss during the hearing, the Broward County Sheriff and Department
of Children and Families are integral to the Parkland fact pattern.
that fact pattern is very disturbing.
September 2017, the shooter posted a comment on a YouTube video that read, “I’m
going to be a professional school shooter.” The creator of the video flagged
the comment and reported it to the FBI. The September 2017 tip was routed to
the FBI’s West Virginia call center. According to what the FBI has told the
Committee, the responsible FBI agents did not believe they had enough
information to identify the shooter who made the YouTube post.
FBI closed the case.
on January 5, 2018, the FBI received a call from a woman who knew the shooter
well. She described a troubled young man who posted disturbing statements and
pictures of mutilated animals and guns on social media. The caller described
the shooter as suicidal and with homicidal ideas. The caller also provided the
FBI with the usernames to four of his social media accounts. In one account he
wrote, “I want to kill people.” The caller also explicitly mentioned her
concern that he may get into a school and “shoot the place up.”
call taker concluded that there was no imminent threat because the tip did not
provide a target date or a target location.
the FBI had followed up on that tip, it would most likely have sent agents to
interview the shooter. Either way, it appears that the FBI did not communicate
with local law enforcement.
addition to the FBI, the State of Florida has a tremendous responsibility too.
September 28, 2016, Florida’s Department of Children and Families opened an
investigation into the shooter. In that investigation, DCF concluded that he is
a “vulnerable adult due to mental illness.” DCF’s investigation also mentioned
that a mobile crisis unit was deployed by Henderson Health and determined that
the shooter wasn’t a risk to himself or others. On November 12, 2016, DCF
closed the investigation.
appears that the State of Florida and its governmental subdivisions, including
the Broward County Sheriff, may not have taken the necessary steps to
involuntarily commit him. If he’d been involuntarily committed to a mental
institution for treatment, he would’ve been entered into the NICS and
prohibited from purchasing firearms.
all levels, law enforcement must explain what went wrong, why it went wrong,
and what steps it is taking to make sure these failures never happen again.
we must determine the best, evidence-based approach to improving school safety.