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Exploring solutions to mass shootings

by SEN. MIKE CRAPO Contributing Writer
| July 21, 2022 1:00 AM

Idahoans deserve to live without fearing for their lives — whether at the supermarket, school or home. Incidents of gun violence around the country have rightly focused efforts to protect communities, especially our children. Effective and implementable solutions require addressing the driving factors behind heinous acts of gun violence, such as;

• strengthening shortcomings in our mental health system,

• hardening the protection of our schools, and

• enforcing existing laws against known violent criminals and those adjudicated to be an imminent threat of violence.

Far and away, most Americans are law-abiding citizens, including those who own, possess, carry and use firearms, in a lawful and peaceful fashion. Their right to do so is specifically protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. That right must not be abridged while we seek to prevent violence perpetrated by those individuals who are mentally ill, criminals or terrorists. Congress recently passed and the President signed into law S. 2938, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which I voted against because it will abridge the rights of law-abiding citizens through gun ban/confiscation programs, also known as “red flag laws.” That is why I was asked to share my thoughts on what must be done to curtail mass shootings.

First, we need to address the driving factors behind heinous acts of gun violence, which often are shortcomings in our mental health system. As Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, I have spent the last two years in partnership with Chairman Ron Wyden and our entire Committee membership on a strong initiative to address mental health needs in the United States. Although we have not finalized our initiative, several parts of our work were incorporated into S. 2938.

The Health and Human Services Secretary would be required to issue Medicaid guidance to states to improve access to telehealth services, and to expand access to school-based mental health services.

It would also improve enforcement and oversight of Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment services, the country’s gold standard in children’s health coverage.

The law would allow all states to participate in the Medicaid Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) program, which has dramatically increased access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment. I look forward to working with Idahoans to integrate these facilities into our mental health care system.

These policies, which expand access to essential care by supporting telehealth options and creating more sites of service, are the types of sensible solutions that address root causes of gun violence without abridging Second Amendment rights.

Second, we need to harden the protection of our schools and more effectively enforce existing law. I co-sponsored an amendment, sponsored by fellow Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that included provisions to:

Improve school safety through putting more mental health professionals, local police and security officers in schools and making information on best practices more accessible, offsetting the cost with unspent appropriations.

Increase enforcement of existing laws against perpetrators of violence and those who illegally evade background checks.

Although Senate Majority Leader Schumer blocked the vote on these effective, implementable solutions with proven track records, we will continue our work to address mental illness, threat identification and school safety.

The engagement of so many Idahoans with varying views on this debate is important. I will continue to fight for improvements to mental health services and school safety and for Americans’ Second Amendment and due process rights.

In subsequent columns, I will more thoroughly address red flag laws, due process and our continuing efforts to improve mental health care.

• • •

Mike Crapo represents Idaho’s First Congressional District in the U.S. Senate. He can be reached at crapo.senate.gov.

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