A woman walks past a makeshift memorial near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 19 in Parkland, Fla. A shooting Feb. 14 at the school left 17 people dead. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee warned Wednesday that their Republican colleagues might be focusing too much attention on the FBI’s failure to act on a tip that might have prevented the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Fla., and not enough on gun-related reforms.
In a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the Democrats said they recognized the committee’s responsibility to oversee the FBI, but feared “that the Committee’s course of action in response to the urgent threat of gun violence will be inadequate once again.” The committee, the Democrats wrote, had failed to conduct a single hearing to examine the causes of prior mass shootings, and they feared its latest request — that FBI Director Christopher A. Wray brief the committee on the bureau’s failure to act on a January tip about accused shooter Nikolas Cruz — would distract from other reforms.
“So far, your sense of urgency about this issue has focused solely on the FBI, but your request to Director Wray is no substitute for enacting meaningful legislation, which we know is necessary to make our citizens safer from gun violence,” the Democrats wrote. “We therefore ask that, in addition to seeking information from the FBI about the tip it received about the Parkland shooter, you bring gun violence prevention legislation before the Committee without delay.”
The FBI has faced significant criticism since the shooting last week at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School, where police say 19-year-old Cruz shot and killed 17 people, most of them students. A little more than a month earlier, a caller had reported to the FBI’s tip line that Cruz had a desire to kill and might attack a school. That tip was passed to a supervisor in the call center but never to agents in the field — meaning the bureau conducted no meaningful investigation. Separately, the FBI had received a call in September about a YouTube user with the screen name “nikolas cruz” who had commented on a video, “Im going to be a professional school shooter.”
Last week, Trump railed against the bureau, saying in a late-night tweet: “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!” Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) had earlier called on Wray to resign, and Goodlatte and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chair of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter demanding they be briefed on the bureau’s misstep by March 2.
The Judiciary Committee Democrats wrote that their letter was in response to that request. They said that — in addition to seeking information from the bureau — the committee should take up some type of legislation related to firearms. Specifically, they said that legislators should consider extending background check requirements to all gun sales, enacting legislation for states to provide incentives to families that seek gun violence restraining orders, and prohibiting the sale of assault weapons, at least to people younger than 21. They argued against national concealed carry reciprocity.
Spokespeople for Goodlatte did not immediately return messages seeking comment.