House passes bipartisan bill to create active shooter alert system

WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation Wednesday that would create an Amber-alert-like system for active shooter situations.

In a 260-169 vote, lawmakers approved the Active Shooter Alert Act, which was sponsored by Reps. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Fred Upton, R-Mich. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Nearly all votes in opposition were Republicans, with the exception of Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, of Wisconsin, who is not running for reelection. Forty-three Republicans voted in favor of the measure.

The measure would allow law enforcement to deploy the alert system in emergency situations and notify the public about active shooters.

Cicilline and Upton said it could be used in situations like what unfolded after the mass shooting in Highland Park, Ill., on the Fourth of July, when the suspected gunman was at large for eight hours and was able to drive to Wisconsin. Another situation when the alert system could have been used was in April, when a suspect was at large for about 29 hours after allegedly shooting people at a subway station in Brooklyn.

In active shooter events, authorities have had to resort to using Twitter and social media to tell the public about the situation, Cicilline said.

"This is terribly inefficient and dangerous," he said in a statement. "Law enforcement needs and deserves better tools than Twitter to communicate with the community and the Active Shooter Alert Act answers that call."

Upton said in a statement that the alert system would allow police and first responders "to focus on ending the situation and saving lives." He said he heard from "law enforcement and police chiefs that active shooter alerts can be a vital tool to provide accurate, real-time information to our communities, and one they believe will help in these dangerous situations."

Passage of the bill in the House comes after a spate of mass shootings in the U.S. in recent months, including in Buffalo, N.Y., Uvalde, Texas, and Highland Park. In late June, President Joe Biden signed the most sweeping legislation aimed at preventing gun violence in 30 years, which was crafted in response to the massacres.