AFTER FLORIDA SHOOTING, COURTNEY CALLS ON EDUCATION COMMITTEE TO HOLD HEARINGS, POINTS TO GOP HYPOCRISY ON MENTAL HEALTH FOCUS
(Norwich, CT) —Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, joined with all Democratic colleagues from the committee in sending a letter to Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) calling on her to hold hearings on preventing school shootings in the wake of the Parkland, Florida massacre. Courtney is also pointing out that while Congressional Republicans have tried to focus attention on mental illness in the wake of the tragedy, all of their recent actions show they are trying to cut funding for mental health services and make it easier for the severely mentally ill to buy firearms. Data shows that while the United States has a similar rate of mentally ill patients as other developed countries, no other country has experienced the catastrophic level of gun violence that plagues the U.S.
“We need to recognize that there is nothing normal about American’s gun violence crisis,” said Courtney. “When it comes to global statistics, no other developed country even comes close to equaling the United States in terms of raw gun deaths and shooting rampages – the U.S. stands alone. Something is deeply wrong in our society when we experience routine massacres, but we take no action to prevent such occurrences from repeatedly taking place. When a plane crashes, we conduct thorough investigations to figure out what went wrong and enact regulations in an attempt to prevent the next crash. When a class full of children is massacred, apparently Congress is incapable of doing anything.”
“In the wake of several recent mass shootings, President Trump has said the focus should be on holes in our mental health laws, yet almost exactly one year ago he overturned regulations that barred severely mentally ill people from purchasing firearms. His budget released Monday also slashes Medicaid funding despite the fact that Medicaid is the largest payer of mental health services in the United States. However, we know that while the United States has a similar rate of mentally ill patients as other developed countries, none of those countries experiences the catastrophic rates of gun violence that we do.”
Ways that President Trump and Congressional Republicans have undermined their own focus on mental health:
One of the first laws President Trump signed (Public Law 115-8) nullified the Social Security Administration’s regulations that required all records submitted to the NICS background check system comply with existing federal law prohibiting certain people from possessing firearm. Incomplete records weaken the background check system and further erodes coverage all firearm transfers.
A month after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history took place in Las Vegas, Congressional Republicans poisoned a good faith, bipartisan effort at improving the background check system, the Fix NICS Act of 2017 (H.R. 4477), by combining it with a measure (H.R. 38) to force states like Connecticut to accept concealed carry licenses issued by any state, no matter its standards for issuance, and put law enforcement officers at risk of being sued for even trying to confirm the validity of an out of state permit.
Each year Congressional Republicans include a “rider,” known as the Dickey Amendment, in must-pass spending bills that prohibits the CDC from conducting any research on gun violence and its impact on public health. Preventing such research stops the development of productive policy ideas that could ease the scourge of gun violence while respecting Constitutional rights.
Medicaid is the single largest payer for mental health services in the country and Medicaid expansion provided coverage for many Americans who previously had no access to behavioral health services, but Republicans have repeatedly sought to slash funding for Medicaid. Most recently, the President’s budget proposal would implement a policy known as the Graham-Cassidy proposal that would slash Medicaid funding by hundreds of billions of dollars and end the Medicaid expansion.
Despite more than 230 school shootings since the December 14, 2012, massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Committee has not held a hearing to address this public health crisis since February 2013. Democrats are urging the Chairwoman to make school massacres a priority and hold a hearing to examine common sense solutions that could lessen the frequency of such tragedies.
The full letter to Chairwoman Foxx is below and available online.
February 15, 2018
The Honorable Virginia Foxx
House Committee on Education and the Workforce
US House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairwoman Foxx:
We write to request hearings before the House Education and the Workforce Committee regarding school shootings. As you know, per House Rule X, our Committee has jurisdiction over “education … generally.” More specifically, the Committee Rule 2 (a) clarifies our oversight over “school safety” and other issues.
Wednesday’s preventable tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, resulted in the deaths of at least seventeen students and faculty. Sadly, since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School five years ago, more than 430 people have been shot in over 230 school shootings. Despite the sobering reality, our Committee has not had a hearing to address this public health epidemic since February of 2013.
Yesterday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos remarked during a radio interview that “Congress needs to be holding hearings on these issues.” Secretary Devos called for us to examine this issue and “impact the future.” She stated pointedly that “we have got to have an honest conversation, and Congress has to lead on this. It’s their job.”
Madame Chair, we are wholly in agreement with Secretary DeVos in this respect. We stand ready to lead and do our job with regard to this difficult subject. To that end, we respectfully ask that you schedule hearings to examine the issue of school shootings. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Robert C. “Bobby” Scott Suzanne Bonamici
Ranking Member Vice Ranking Member
Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02)
Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), ranking member
Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01)
Congresswoman Alma S. Adams (NC-12)
Congresswoman Lisa Blunt-Rochester (DE-AL)
Congresswoman Susan A. Davis (CA-53)
Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11)
Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13)
Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11)
Congressman Raul M. Grijalva (AZ-03)
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08)
Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01)
Congressman Jared Polis (CO-02)
Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP)
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01)
Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41)
Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24)