U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) says a mental health bill he is sponsoring could prevent incidents like the 2012 Newtown, Ct., school massacre and this month’s shooting at an Oregon college, reports the Texas Tribune. The bill would require mental health checks before denying anyone the ability to purchase firearms and would increase funding for treatment-based responses for offenders with mental illnesses and institute court-administered programs for treatment that would involve an offender’s family. “As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I think law-abiding citizens are not the threat, but the people who unfortunately become dangerous to themselves and others can become” one, Cornyn said yesterday about the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015.
The legislation would adjust the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is used to determine whether someone can buy a firearm, to incentivize states to send more mental health records for the database. It would require a court hearing to determine whether someone really is dangerous before the person is prohibited from access to firearms. Cornyn said he was surprised by how mental health pervades the criminal justice system, theorizing that people like Newtown gunman Adam Lanza’s mother had few options, causing Lanza to “continue to get sicker and sicker and sicker” or be institutionalized. Cornyn said the legislation would create intermediate help, including crisis intervention teams at the state and local levels that help with treatment for people with mental health problems. Groups including the National Rifle Association, the National Alliance on Mental Health, the American Correctional Association, the American Jail Association and the Council of State Governments endorse the legislation. Critics say Cornyn’s legislation doesn’t do enough to address gun violence.