Lawmakers Take Stances on Shooting

Sculpted sundial by Curtis Steele at Westside Middle School Memorial Garden

by Tucker Crain
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO – Arkansas lawmakers weighed in on the 20th anniversary of the Westside Middle School shooting, occurring March 24.

Gun violence and school safety continue to be prominent issues across the nation, particularly in light of the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Similar tragedy struck Arkansas in 1998 with the shooting at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro.

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford represents Arkansas’ 1st Congressional District, which contains Jonesboro. In an interview with KASU News Director Johnathan Reaves, Crawford said a school-safety commission was established almost immediately after the tragedy in Parkland, and the commission resembled the style of the commission formed after 9/11.

Crawford said he took the time recently to meet with people involved with the tragedy at Westside to find solutions that do not require congressional action.

“What we do know is we’re not going to wait around for that legislation to appear,” Crawford said.

Crawford’s office did not respond to requests for comment regarding further legislative solutions the congressman may be working on in terms of gun violence and school safety.

Meanwhile, the 3rd Congressional District’s U.S. Rep. Steve Womack’s press secretary Heather Neilson said Womack is not looking to add new laws regarding gun safety.

“Rather than searching for new, more stringent ways to go against Second Amendment rights, (Womack) wants us to enforce our current laws more forcefully,” Neilson said.

Neilson said tragedy causes debate over the Second Amendment, but Womack does not believe new restrictions hold the answer.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman also participated in an interview with Reaves. Boozman said the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 created issues for law enforcement.

Boozman said HIPPA laws prevent mental health professionals from reporting people who hint of a desire to commit a violent act to law enforcement.

“I think that’s something that we need to look at, and those are the kind of things that Congress will be looking at,” Boozman said. “Those are the kinds of things that the states can be looking at.”

Boozman’s office did not respond to requests for comment regarding any legislative actions the congressman may be taking regarding gun violence and school safety.

The office of Arkansas’ other U.S. Senator, Tom Cotton, said although Cotton has made no comments regarding gun violence and school safety, any future statements and announcements will be posted to his website and sent to email subscribers.

The office of U.S. Rep. French Hill, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, did not respond to requests for comments. Similarly, the office of the 4th Congressional District’s U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman declined to comment when asked for comments regarding gun violence and school safety.

Featured photo by Miranda Reynolds