Many 2024 Republican presidential contenders believe schools must bolster safety and mental health measures to combat school shootings in the wake of the Nashville, Tennessee massacre Monday.
Audrey Hale, a 28-year-old female who identifies as transgender with “he/him” pronouns, shot and killed three students and three adults at private Christian institution Covenant School on Monday. Several declared and potential GOP presidential candidates are calling for heavier police presence, bolstered security and school safety, along with increased mental health resources, to prevent school shootings.
“President Trump has proposed tougher school safety measures, including more security personnel, hardening of schools, allowing teachers who are licensed to carry a weapon to defend their students from harm, and more mental health resources for troubled individuals,” a spokesperson for former President Donald Trump’s campaign told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Conservative businessman Vivek Ramaswamy slammed the Department of Education (DOE) in a statement to the DCNF for funding “radical gender and racial ideology” in schools that enable “psychopaths” like the shooter rather than protecting children from people like Hale. He vowed to defund the DOE and funnel those savings towards employing armed guards at schools.
“The real question is why this psychopath in Nashville was able to get into the school in the first place. We protect green pieces of paper in a bank with more armed guards than we do our kids in schools. We pay for Thousands Standing Around (TSA) in our airports. There’s more security at a random mall than in a public school,” Ramaswamy said.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s campaign referred the DCNF to comments about the shooting she made in New Hampshire on Monday, where she called for every school to have at least one cop on duty “all the time.”
“You’re going to hear everybody want to talk about gun control,” Haley said. “My thing is, I don’t want to take away your ability to protect yourself until they do those things that protect those kids and we need to make sure that happens in every school because it’s happened too often and we need to make sure that stops.”
Haley also recommended schools only have one point of entry, and that security and safety precautions like metal detectors be implemented.
“We do need to learn from each school shooting incident and while it is too early to know all the facts from Nashville, it is important that we continue to prioritize school safety and security,” former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson told the DCNF. “As Governor, we invested in school security and required school safety assessments. We invested in improved infrastructure and training of law enforcement and school personnel.”
Hutchinson, who is “seriously” considering running for president, believes the root cause of school shootings like the one in Nashville is the same of any other violent crime – “it is an evil heart.”
“We need to look at school safety and dealing much more aggressively with having people at schools who can protect the children and the teachers and administrators who are at those schools,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told Fox News Monday, to which his team directed the DCNF.
Christie, who has said he will decide to run for president within 60 days, noted that America has a huge problem with “uncontrollable anger” when asked about the root causes of such tragedies.
Hale was a former student of the school, and might have “had some history there” with “possibly some resentment,” according to Nashville police.
These are from what appear to be the shooter’s mother’s Facebook page. pic.twitter.com/IJsT9KRTpT
— Grayson Quay ⚓️ (@hemingquay) March 27, 2023
“When someone identifies as a gender different from their biological sex, more often than not, that is a sign and a symptom that they are suffering from a mental illness. I reject the idea that it is somehow ‘humane’ to affirm their confusion, rather than to actually help them. It’s inhumane,” Ramaswamy said.
Christie and Haley also acknowledged that mental health issues must be addressed, with Haley calling for adding mental health counselors at schools. (RELATED: QUAY: The Transgender Nashville Shooter Is A Victim Too)
“While we want to lift up those families in prayer, people are going to say, ‘But what are we going to do about it?’” Haley said. “There are answers on what to do about it. We have to decide as a country that we’re going to do something about it.”
Hale was reportedly undergoing treatment for an undisclosed “emotional disorder” ahead of the attack, and messaged a friend of her suicidal intentions just before entering the school.
“Investments in school resource officers and mental health services makes our schools safer. One priority that I focused on was to enhance the role of the school counselors to make sure they are devoting their time to the mental health needs of the students and not just administrative work,” said Hutchinson.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who is weighing a presidential run himself, acknowledged the part that mental health issues play in school shootings, according to the senator’s previous comments and actions that a spokesman pointed the DCNF toward.
In 2019, Scott and his Republican colleagues introduced the RESPONSE Act to target school shootings by bolstering mental health and crisis intervention services, strengthening school safety with behavioral intervention teams and offering active shooter training for law enforcement.
“South Carolina knows all too well the heartache and pain of mass shootings,” said Scott. “Passing the RESPONSE Act would be another responsible step towards preventing mass shootings, giving new tools to law enforcement officers, and expanding mental health treatment.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former National Security Advisor John Bolton did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.
“The event in Nashville was tragic and the loss of life was senseless. I am thankful to the brave men and women of the Nashville Police Department for their quick response and heroic actions to prevent any further loss of life,” said Hutchinson.
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