President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Education Department refused to say during her confirmation hearing Tuesday that guns don’t belong in schools.
The question came from Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut. Murphy’s state was home to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, where a gunman shot and killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown in 2012. Murphy asked Trump’s nominee, Betsy DeVos, if guns “have any place in or around schools.”
DeVos said such questions should be left to states and localities.
“You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?” Murphy pressed.
DeVos, referring to earlier comments from Sen. Mike Enzi (R) of Wyoming, said that some schools out West might need protection from bears. “I would imagine there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies,” she said.
Murphy also asked DeVos if she would support Trump if he moved to eliminate gun-free school zones.
“I will support what the president-elect does,” she responded.
“If the question is around gun violence,” she went on, “please know that my heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost any individual due to gun violence.”
Murphy appeared upset by the responses, saying he looked forward to working with DeVos, and to her “coming to Connecticut to talk about the role of guns in schools,” an obvious allusion to Sandy Hook. Murphy gave up his microphone.
Democrats immediately pointed to the exchange to argue that DeVos should not be confirmed.
DeVos is a controversial pick for education secretary. A billionaire from one of Michigan’s most powerful Republican families, she has spent years funding “school choice” efforts that steer public money toward charter schools and private schools. Public education advocates and teacher unions have described her as a radical choice to be the face of federal education policy.