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President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary told lawmakers at her confirmation hearing that guns might have a place in schools due to the threat from grizzly bears.
Billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos faced tough questions during Tuesday's session, refused to rule out removing funding public schools if appointed and admitted her family may have made donations to the Republican Party totalling $200 million.
Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who has been vocal on gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, asked DeVos if she thought firearms had any place in or around schools.
“I think that’s best left to locales and states to decide,” she replied.
Pressed on whether she could say “definitively” if guns shouldn’t be in schools, she referred to an earlier remark by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) who mentioned an elementary school in Wapiti, Wyoming, that had erected a fence to protect children from wildlife.
“I think probably there, I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies,” DeVos said.
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Murphy went on: “If President Trump moves forward with his plan to ban gun-free school zones, will you support that proposal?”
DeVos replied: “I will support what the president-elect does. But senator, if the question is around gun violence and the results of that, please know that I, I — my heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost any individual due to gun violence.”
The phrase “potential grizzlies” later trended on Twitter.
DeVos has been the subject of concern because of her support of school choice and voucher programs that critics say would pull resources from struggling public schools and stifle diversity. Supporters say such programs would force schools to be competitive, fostering an environment that would create educational innovation as well as offer parents more choices when it comes to their children's education.
DeVos' nomination has also been opposed for her family's ties to anti-LGBT groups and for her lack of experience in public education.