Thursday, January 11, 2018

HR 4650 Introduced – Active Shooter Guidance

Last month Rep. Aguilar (D,CA) introduced HR 4650, the Providing Rational Options Toward the Elimination of Catastrophic Terrorism (PROTECT) Act of 2017. The bill would require DHS to provide guidance on planning for and responding to active shooter incidents. It would also add active shooter incidents to the list of priorities for State and Urban Area Initiative grant programs under 6 USC 608.

The bill would add a new section (§890B) to the Homeland Security Act of 2002 that would require DHS to develop and make available guidance “to assist in the development of emergency action and response plans for active shooter and mass casualty incidents in public and private locations” {new §890B(a)}.

Moving Forward

Aguilar is not a member of the House Homeland Security Committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration, but one of his co-sponsors, Rep. Watson-Coleman (D,NJ) is. This means that it is possible that Watson-Coleman has enough influence to have this bill considered in Committee.

There is nothing in this bill that would engender any significant opposition. The bill would probably draw bipartisan support if it were considered. If it makes it to the floor of the House, I suspect that it would be considered under the suspension of the rules process.


This bill is very generic in its guidance requirements. The most important piece of the bill is the amendment of §608 that adds ‘active shooters’ to the list of threats that DHS will consider when awarding homeland security grants under the Urban Area Security Initiative (§604) and the State Homeland Security Grant Program (§605).

I am disappointed (though hardly surprised) that the bill does not require DHS to prepare specific guidance for responding to active shooter incidents at facilities that store hazardous materials; particularly flammable liquids and gasses or toxic liquids and gasses. Over the years I have talked to police officers in a number of jurisdictions (including one with specific response responsibilities at an oil refinery) and none of them have been aware of the specific hazards associated with the discharge of firearms in facilities with potentially flammable atmospheres. Nor have they been aware of how easy it is for bullets to penetrate the walls of many storage tanks used to store toxic and flammable liquids.

If this bill makes it out of committee without language being added to require this sort of specific guidance being added, it is unlikely that it would be subsequently added in the legislative process. Any floor action in the House or Senate would almost certainly be made under abbreviated consideration rules which do not typically provide for amendments being offered.

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