Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns about gun violence and the recent school shootings.
Stopping gun violence in our nation’s schools and communities is a critical priority of mine in Congress. There have been meaningful discussions and work done on these issues that show we can reach common ground in finding solutions to prevent gun violence.
I come from a family of educators and immediately understand the challenges facing our schools in providing a safe environment. My mother was a teacher and librarian and my sister is a guidance counselor in Fairfax County Schools. My husband, Chip, served in Fairfax County schools for over 30 years as a math teacher and assistant principal, and also taught recently at an alternative high school with students with a multitude of challenges.
Some of the issues where we have been making progress to date on a bipartisan basis to advance safety and prevent gun violence including:
First, on March 14th, we passed the STOP School Violence Act of 2018 which I cosponsored. This bill was incorporated into the Omnibus for Fiscal Year 2018. The bill provides funding to strengthen school security, training to students, teachers, school officials, and local law enforcement to identify threats and create school threat assessment protocols, and crisis intervention teams to intervene with those likely to commit violence before it happens. There are many successful model programs that groups such as Sandy Hook Promise have implemented to identify troubled and violent individuals and get them help through early intervention and a wholistic approach. These funds will support adoption of these programs across the country and engage communities in working together to defuse the violent situations whether they stem from bullying, mental health problems, and domestic abuse. The funding can also be utilized for locks, lighting, and metal detectors where needed. I have also worked with the National Association of School Resource Officers to obtain more funding for the Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) grants and to direct that additional funding to the SRO program.
Second, considering 80% of school shooters have told someone beforehand, we need more tools to intervene with those who pose a clear risk to others or themselves. Often violent individuals have been identified, only to slip through the cracks. Nineteen states - from liberal California to conservative Indiana have enacted - RED FLAG Temporary Protection Orders that give law enforcement and family members the option to obtain a court order to prevent gun sales or remove guns from individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others. Legislation on this front is also garnering bipartisan support.
Third, the House has passed and I have cosponsored the bipartisan Fix NICS Act of 2017, which will strengthen background checks by requiring federal agencies and every state to fully report all relevant criminal information to the national background check database. This would include domestic abuse which has not always been included. A more vigorous background check system will keep dangerous individuals from buying any type of gun. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who introduced this bill with Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn has said this bill “marks an important milestone that shows real compromise can be made on the issue of guns, and I’m glad the House is following suit. . . . It represents the strongest update to the background checks system in a decade, and provides the foundation for more compromise in the future.” The Omnibus for Fiscal Year 2018 also included this bill. I also previously worked to secure $75 million for grants to states to upgrade their criminal and mental health records for NICS.
Fourth, we must once again prosecute people who purchase or attempt to purchase guns when they are prohibited from doing so. Currently there is little risk to those attempting an illegal gun purchase. I also have voted for increased penalties for “straw purchasers” in the state legislature and would support increased penalties for anyone flouting laws prohibiting dangerous people from purchasing any weapon.
Fifth, we will continue to expand funding for mental health, which is often at the root of these violent incidents. In the 114th Congress, I cosponsored the 21st Century Cures Act, which fully funded the National Institute of Health (NIH), and included H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016. For Fiscal Year 2018, the Omnibus included flexible funding at $1.1 billion, for mental health programs designed by local governments and schools that will enable them to find creative solutions to improve school safety.
Finally, this is an ongoing process and we will continue to explore reforms that advance the safety of our students, schools and communities and prevent gun violence in all settings. There are also administrative actions that have been taken such as the President’s order on February 20th to the Justice Department to issue regulations banning bump stocks, an action that my colleagues and I called for last year, on a bipartisan basis.
Thank you again for contacting me. It is a privilege to serve you in the Tenth District. I may also be contacted at my Sterling office at 703-404-6903, or my Washington, D.C. office at 202-225-5136. By visiting http://comstock.house.gov, you can sign up to receive my email newsletters and follow my efforts to serve you. If I may ever be of service, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Member of Congress