Content warning: gun violence
By Jen Curt, CTIPP's Director of Government Affairs
Congressional Action on Gun Violence
The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have been discussing gun reform legislation in the wake of recent mass murder events involving guns.
On Wednesday, June 8th, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on “The Urgent Need to Address the Gun Violence Epidemic.” The committee heard from Zeneta Everhart, mother of Buffalo shooting victim Zaire Goodman, Roy Guerrero, M.D., the pediatrician who treated survivors of the Uvalde, Texas shooting, Felix Rubio and Kimberly Rubio, parents of Uvalde shooting victim Lexi Rubio, and Miah Cerrillo, fourth-grade student at Robb elementary school.
Also on Wednesday, June 8th, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” a package of bills “to provide for an increased age limit on the purchase of certain firearms, prevent gun trafficking, modernize the prohibition on untraceable firearms, encourage the safe storage of firearms, and for other purposes”. The bill passed the U.S. House 223 to 204. Review who voted YEA and NAY.
On Wednesday, June 15th, staff from the U.S. House of Representatives will join the monthly CTIPP Community Action Network call to provide greater detail on provisions passed in the U.S. House in the Protecting Our Kids Act and prospects on the path forward for gun reform law in the U.S. Senate.
Meanwhile in the U.S. Senate, a bipartisan group of 20 Senators led by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) reached a deal on a framework for a “gun-control” package. This week, they will translate the framework into legislative text. If all 20 Senators remain supportive, the bill would have the votes to overcome the Senate filibuster. The framework includes four key provisions: (1) enhanced background checks for buyers under 21; (2) funding to incentivize states to pass “red flag” laws; (3) funding for mental health and school safety; (4) closing the so-called boyfriend loophole, which presently allows people to buy guns even if they were convicted of domestic violence against a partner they were dating (but not married to). Final passage of the bill is not guaranteed.
Senate HELP Committee Develops Mental Health Package
The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), has been working on bipartisan legislation to address the mental health and overdose crises.
CTIPP has weighed in, leading a letter with 42 organizations advocating for the inclusion of provisions from S. 2086, RISE from Trauma Act, which is led by Senator Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Capito (R-WV). CTIPP highlighted Section 101 of the legislation which funds cross-sector community coalitions. In the private letter sent on June 8th:
“Having an ACE is associated with a significantly increased risk for suicide, substance use disorder, and overdose death… The good news is that social scientists and practitioners have identified solutions. By training people in every sector – from clinicians and first responders to educators and community leaders – in trauma prevention, identification, intervention, and treatment, we can reduce exposure and increase protective factors that help children and communities weather stress. Trauma-informed practices have been proven to reduce problematic substance use by 86 percent, child mental health symptoms by 43 percent, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms by 65 percent…The RISE from Trauma Act advances and expands these exact solutions. Of particular importance, Section 101 creates a grant program that would support cross-sector community coalitions proven to reduce the impacts of trauma and its long-term effects.”
President Biden Takes Next Steps on Implementing His Mental Health Strategy
In his March State of the Union address, President Biden laid out a National Strategy to Address Mental Health. CTIPP wrote a letter to the administration, encouraging them to focus on prevention as a key component of this strategy. In May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month, the White House announced initial steps taken to enact this strategy, which included an emphasis on preventing mental health challenges by creating healthy environments:
“No health problem can be addressed solely through the health care system. We must also invest in programs that can prevent mental health challenges and build environments that promote wellness and recovery. Decades of research show that coordinated prevention across settings can pay long-term dividends, including reductions in community violence. Similarly, when settings provide services and restorative programs that support individuals with mental health problems or other at-risk behaviors, they can promote broader social and economic gains.”
New SAMHSA Reports
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a report, “Preliminary Findings from Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits, 2021” wherein, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) identified 141,529 (unweighted) drug-related emergency department (ED) visits from 52 participating hospitals. The top five drugs involved in drug-related ED estimates in 2021 were alcohol, followed by opioids, methamphetamine, marijuana, and cocaine. The sentinel hospitals showed that the monthly trend analysis revealed decreasing trends of alcohol, methamphetamine, marijuana, and heroin-related ED visits, and increasing trends of fentanyl and unspecified narcotic analgesics.
SAMHSA also released an issue of The Dialogue, a quarterly newsletter for disaster behavioral health coordinators, which highlights disaster behavioral health and disaster response expert experiences and recommendations in response to the “threats of climate change”.
The U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol held its first public hearing on Thursday, June 9th. It will continue holding hearings this month until its final hearing on June 23rd.