WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) — In the wake of last Saturday’s deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, Congressman David Cicilline is trying to renew interest in a bill that would create an AMBER Alert-like system to notify communities about active shooter events.
Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, said the Active Shooter Alert Act would provide law enforcement with technology to send lifesaving notifications to smartphones using resources already in place at the federal level.
“This type of alert system we’re talking about today would be far more efficient, and can also provide updates to the communities if they are in situations that would be otherwise impossible to communicate in the midst of an active shooting threat,” Cicilline said Thursday.
Beyond the most recent shooting in Buffalo, Cicilline pointed to federal data that shows the United States has endured close to 400 active shooter events from 2000-2020.
“These shootings have become ubiquitous, so frequent, that some of these horrific events barely make headlines,” Cicilline said. “This is not normal, and we cannot let it become normalized, but also we can’t become numb to these events.”
“Every single shooting, it was law enforcement running to the scene to apprehend the shooter, to help victims, and to keep the surrounding community safe,” he added.
That, in part, is why Cicilline, along with Congressman Fred Upton, R-Michigan, crafted the legislation with the help of law enforcement. The bill was introduced in February and has bipartisan support.
“We’re not infringing on anyone’s constitutional rights, but we are using resources that are already available at the federal and state level and giving the permission and resources to law enforcement and to states to implement this kind of system that acts just like an Amber Alert system, and can and will save lives,” said Congresswoman Nancy Mace, R-South Carolina.
The bill has been endorsed by several major law enforcement organizations, including the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association (RIPCA).
RIPCA held an event promoting the bill earlier this year. Bristol Police Chief Kevin Lynch, who serves as RIPCA’s vice president, said in a March statement that having this kind of alert system would be a major advantage for law enforcement.
“As a chief of police, having additional tools to address a complex problem in our society adds additional resources to all law enforcement leaders during critical moments of chaotic, challenging, and dangerous situations,” Lynch wrote.
On top of implementing the alert system, the bill would also appoint a coordinator within the Department of Justice to offer federal training, technical support and best practices to local and state law enforcement to improve or implement systems in their communities.
The bill would also allow for a federal study on state and local responses to active shooters, and other situations that would require a public alert or warning to be issued.