Last Wednesday was exactly one month after the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and my wife Renee and I continue to pray for the Parkland community. The despicable violence and hatred we saw there has no place in our schools and our society.
When I think back to my days at Myers Park High School, I remember studying humanities in Mr. Layton’s class, having lunch with my friends, and looking forward to Friday night football games. I don’t remember feeling scared or anxious. And I don’t remember worrying about my safety. I want my son and all of America’s children to have that same experience. If there is any place our children should feel protected, it is our schools. They deserve a safe space where they can learn and grow.
That’s why so many of us have been working for years to address this issue. Now is the time for us to come together in a bipartisan manner to have a frank conversation that includes the root cause of this violence: the breakdown of the family, culture, media and mental health. We must ask the tough questions. Why do individuals like the one in Parkland seem to keep falling through the cracks in the system? Why aren’t we able to identify and intervene with young people in emotional crises before they reach the breaking point? What causes these emotional crises and what can we do to prevent them?
By all accounts, this is a question of culture and mental health as much as anything. That’s why I’ve worked hard and will continue to work to reform our nation’s mental health system. As your congressman, I helped lead the way to get the most transformational mental health reform in 50 years signed into law. Not only did we provide resources and update laws to expand access to care, but we also improved the National Violent Death Reporting System at the CDC to help track violent deaths and illuminate ways to prevent future gun violence. The law also provides increased grant funding for training so teachers, EMS and other professionals can appropriately intervene before someone with mental illness experiences a crisis.
My work continued last week when the House passed the STOP School Violence Act (H.R. 4909), a bill I was proud to co-sponsor. The legislation will make our schools safer by providing resources to train students, teachers and local law enforcement so they can help stop school violence before it happens. It also encourages state and local officials to share best practices for preventing school violence with federal law enforcement and their counterparts in other states. In addition, it provides funding for technology and equipment to improve school security and stop attacks. This funding may be used for metal detectors, locks, lighting and other technologies to keep schools safe. This is a common-sense approach.
In addition, I believe a big part of the debate on how to improve school safety should be left up to state and local officials to decide. That’s why I want to applaud the North Carolina General Assembly for taking proactive steps and forming the House Select Committee on School Safety. I look forward to continuing to work with them and stakeholders throughout North Carolina to protect our students and educators.
As concerned citizens, we all agree there are people in our society who should not have access to guns. That includes convicted felons, non-citizens, convicted domestic abusers and those a judge has ruled are mentally unstable. That’s why I supported legislation to improve compliance with the federal background check system and ensure existing laws are enforced. These are common-sense policies to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people while respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.