The White House has been briefed on a proposal to develop a way to identify early signs of changes in people with mental illness that could lead to violent behavior. Supporters see the plan as a way President Donald Trump could move the ball forward on gun control following recent mass shootings as efforts seem to be flagging to impose harsher restrictions such as background checks on gun purchases, reports the Washington Post. Trump says “mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger” after deadly mass shootings.
The proposal is part of a larger initiative to establish a new agency called the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA) in the Health and Human Services Department. Its director would be appointed by the president. HARPA would be modeled on DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that serves as the research arm of the Pentagon. The concept was advanced by the Suzanne Wright Foundation and first discussed by White House staffers in 2017. The foundation approached the administration again last week and proposed that HARPA include a “Safe Home” — “Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes” — project. It would use data from volunteers to identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act” would be a four-year project costing an estimated $40 million to $60 million, said Geoffrey Ling, the lead scientific adviser on HARPA and a founding director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. Many researchers and mental health experts believe that mental health and gun violence aren’t necessarily linked. Most studies show that no more than a quarter of mass shooters have a diagnosed mental illness.