As students demonstrated around the nation Wednesday over gun violence, a top FBI official acknowledged to Congress that serious mistakes were made in not acting on tips about the gunman who killed 17 people at a Florida high school a month ago, as Congress prepared to take some of the first legislative steps in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
"We made mistakes here, no question about that," said FBI Acting Deputy Director David Bowdich, when asked about why tips to an FBI hotline didn't spark action.
"That said, even had we done everything right, I'm not sure we could have stopped this act," Bowdich told a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "But it would have been nice to try."
Senators asked Bowdich about tips concerning accused shooter Nikolas Cruz on both September 25, 2017, and a "very explicit" tip from January 5, 2018.
"With regard to Parkland, do you agree that the FBI committed serious, grave errors?" asked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
"Yes, I do," Bowdich answered, as he indicated that so far, no FBI employees have been disciplined over the lack of action on the tips against the Florida shooter.
"Do I think we could have changed the course of the outcome here? I don't know," Bowdich said at one point.
The questions and answers about the shooting went on as hundreds of school students massed on Capitol Hill, part of the protests to mark one month since the Parkland, Florida shooting.
While there were calls for action by both parties, the same political differences were on display again on Wednesday.
"I know the politics here," said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who again championed the idea of stricter "universal background checks" on all gun purchases, as well as a ban on certain assault weapons.
"You're not going to stop these massacres until you get at these two common sense things that I have suggested," Nelson added.
"While increased funding for mental health programs and school security will no doubt have positive effects, mass shootings will not stop until we rid society of the weapons that make them possible," said Katherine Posada, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who described the terror of the February 14 shooting.
One father urged Congress not to let the opportunity go by to find bipartisan agreement on how to secure schools.
"Follow the lead of what has been accomplished in Florida. Build on common ground," said Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed in the Florida shooting.
"This Congress cannot continue to do nothing," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
Meanwhile, the House voted 407 to 10 to approve a bipartisan bill to funnel $75 million in grant money to help schools better recognize red flags about students who might be prone to commit violence.
"We need to give students, teachers, and law enforcement, the tools and the training they need," said Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL), a former sheriff in Jacksonville, Florida.
"I know that this does not go far enough in terms of what we need to do," said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL). "But it is an important step, a bipartisan step."
While approval was expected in the House, the "STOP School Violence" bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, along with other measures dealing with gun violence, as lawmakers search for elusive common ground on the best way to deal with school shootings.
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