Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe and most recently — El Paso and Midland-Odessa. Across the nation, city names have become trending hashtags as acts of mass violence have rocked communities, and claimed the lives of innocent people.
August was bookended by two shootings in Texas, killing 22 people in El Paso, and seven in Midland-Odessa. The immediate outpouring of support came with calls for action to prevent future senseless acts.
The same happened nearly two years ago after the Sutherland Springs shooting. We learned the shooter had a history of violence and a conviction, which should’ve prevented him from purchasing firearms. But this information was never uploaded to the criminal background check databases, and as a result, he was able to purchase four firearms.
Ten days after that shooting, I introduced the bipartisan Fix NICS Act, now law, to fill the gaps in our background check system. It’s led to a roughly 400 percent increase in record submissions from federal agencies, and prevents violent criminals from purchasing firearms illegally.
It’s time to once again pass legislation to reduce mass violence in our country.
This week I introduced the Restoring, Enhancing, Strengthening, and Promoting Our Nation’s Safety Efforts — or RESPONSE — Act to prevent attacks and make our communities safer.
First, this legislation takes aim at unlicensed firearms dealers who break the law. The Midland-Odessa shooter failed a background check when he attempted to buy a firearm from a licensed dealer but was still able to purchase a weapon from someone who never registered as a firearms dealer, and therefore, was able to skirt the background check requirement.
The RESPONSE Act creates nationwide task forces to investigate and prosecute those illegally selling firearms and those who provide false statements during a background check.
Second, this bill improves the quality and availability of mental health care. We must do more to identify and support vulnerable individuals who could pose a danger to themselves or others. We know the majority of gun deaths are suicides, and while mental illness isn’t the prevailing cause of mass violence, enhanced mental health resources are critical to saving lives.
Third, the RESPONSE Act takes steps to increase the safety of our students by promoting best practices and internet safety policies to help schools better identify and assess students whose behavior indicates a threat of violence.
Finally, this legislation encourages online platforms to share information with law enforcement concerning acts of mass violence, hate crimes or domestic terrorism. They already have this ability during emergencies and to fight child abuse. This simply expands the scope of information they can share.
I spent time with families and victims in El Paso and Midland-Odessa following the shootings and promised them I would work with my colleagues on real solutions.
No person, family or community should endure the heartbreak caused by the recent mass shootings in Texas. It’s time to answer their call for action and pass the RESPONSE Act to keep our communities safe from mass violence.