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Allen: School, gun safety emphasis should be on use of existing laws
Expresses interest in legislation for keeping guns from young adults with juvenile felony records
U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, center, speaks to Bulloch County Republicans over breakfast last Saturday.
U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, center, speaks to Bulloch County Republicans over breakfast last Saturday. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

Congressman Rick Allen notes that he previously supported school safety funding legislation that became law when Republicans held the majority in Congress and says that he could possibly support some limitations on who can buy guns, particularly to keep them out of the hands of young adults with histories of juvenile violence.

During a visit to Statesboro last Saturday, he said the main emphasis should be on improving the implementation and enforcement of laws already enacted. But Allen, the Republican who represents Georgia’s 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, indicated that he is unlikely to vote for the legislation being put forward by Democrats under the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Everything, I think, when we get back is going to focused on the school shooting in Texas, and hopefully the Democrats will work together with us,” Allen told the Statesboro Herald. “What we’re hearing is Pelosi doesn’t want us working together. She wants to write her own legislation to deal with what she thinks is the right, and she doesn’t want any Republican votes so that then it’s a messaging bill that they can use to try to survive the election in November.”

Allen was interviewed briefly before and after speaking at the Bulloch County Republican Party’s June breakfast meeting at the Saucy Shrimp restaurant.

During his remarks to the breakfast crowd, he spoke in highly partisan terms about his hope to see Republicans regain control of Congress. Among other things, Allen noted that he recently received former President Donald Trump’s personal endorsement and suggested that Republican U.S. Senate nominee Herschel Walker could beat current Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in a debate by pointing out the extent to which Warnock, while a minister, supports keeping abortion legal.

But as Allen noted when interviewed, proposed responses to recent mass shootings, including the May 24 killing by an 18-year-old gunman of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, were expected to dominate Congress’ attention this week.

“This young man should never have been able to buy the gun,” Allen said. “If the system that we put in place, that we passed when we were in the majority, if it was working as it’s supposed to work, there should have been sufficient background checks, and obviously the young man, he was seeing a psychiatrist. I mean, those kinds of things need to be checked out.”


Background checks

Allen supported legislation originally called the Fix NICS Act of 2017, which was made part of an appropriations package signed into law by Trump in March 2018. It made changes to reporting requirements for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. But Allen says there are still breakdowns in how the information is communicated among federal, state and local authorities, as seen in the Uvalde shooter’s encounters with police and in the backgrounds of other mass shooters.

In Saturday’s initial interview, Allen noted that this time, there has also been talk of raising the age of legal gun ownership from 18 to 21.

“And I wouldn’t be opposed to that on certain firearms,” Allen said. “I guess they’re talking about semiautomatics, but if you are in the military at 18, you should get a waiver.”

One age-related current bill Allen expresses support for is House Resolution 3290, the proposed “Disarming Felons Act,” introduced May 18 by Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas 24th District. Allen’s communications director, Michael Plummer, supplied the bill number and a link to a summary Monday.

Van Duyne’s legislation would bar juveniles who, while ages 15-18 “committed an offense that would have been a felony if committed by an adult” from buying a firearm after turning 18. They would be treated as adult felons and so, apparently, prohibited from owning firearms until that right is restored by a court.


Existing laws

 “The other problem is, it’s easier to get guns illegally in this country than it is legally, just like it’s easier to get into this country illegally than it is to get in legally,” Allen said Saturday. “So we need to obey the laws we’ve got on the books and we’ll solve most of this problem.”

When Republicans held the majority, the Stop School Violence Act of 2018 was passed by the House on a 407-10 bipartisan vote, March 14, 2018, with Allen voting “yea.” It also passed the Senate and became part of the appropriations package Trump signed. It authorized funding for school security improvements.

“We funded in our bill a police officer in every school and you have one entry way,” Allen said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is now having Texas schools audited to see that these provisions are implemented, Allen said. He noted that a door to the school in Uvalde had reportedly been blocked open to prevent it from closing.

Allen said he wants to check the security measures of schools in his congressional district.

“I guarantee you I’m going to call every sheriff in every county this week and say, ‘Have you looked at your schools?’” he said.  “We do not want something like this happening in the 12th District.”

However, news reports have also indicated that the Uvalde school district received and spent sizeable grants for school safety and employed a six-officer school police department for eight schools.

Allen agreed that it remains to be seen whether he will vote for anything in the current round of gun legislation.
“Again, if it’s not bipartisan, I’m not voting for it,” he said.

But along with remarks about enforcing existing laws, he told local Republicans in the breakfast meeting that “Democrats want to take your guns.” Asked about this afterward, he asserted that the attorney general “wants to decide whether you can buy a gun.”

“They want the sole power, and the debate is whether they should have that authority,” Allen said. “We do know that absolute authority corrupts.”

He also told the GOP group that he would like to see Pelosi, who is 82, retire. “Her husband needs somebody to drive him around,” Allen said, a reference to Paul Pelosi’s May 28 arrest in California on a DUI charge.

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