On June 12, a bipartisan group of 10 Republican and 10 Democratic senators led by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) released a framework to guide legislation intended to support violence prevention. In their announcement, the group described the framework as a “commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across the country.”
The framework aims to curtail gun violence and promote safety by supporting states in implementing “state crisis intervention orders,” or laws intended to prevent individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others from having a weapon. In addition, the framework proposes other firearm policies, such as strengthening the background check process by requiring an “enhanced review” for individuals under the age of 21 and ensuring that these systems identify individuals subject to a restraining order for intimate partner violence, thereby closing the “boyfriend loophole.” “It shouldn't matter whether the victim is married to their abuser,” Cornyn stated the following day on the Senate floor. “If the abuser is convicted of domestic violence, they should not be able to purchase a firearm.”
In addition, the framework proposes to expand access to mental and behavioral health care, particularly for children and young people, through investments in telehealth, school-based mental health services, and the community behavioral health center model. The framework also proposes to invest in community support services like crisis and trauma intervention and recovery programs. Murphy indicated to the Senate that although he and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) “don’t think you can solve America’s gun violence epidemic through the prism of mental health,” he plans to “take that opportunity ... to pass an historic investment in children’s mental health.”
The framework tracks with calls from the AAMC to pass legislation that would help curb gun violence, including a May 25 statement from AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton urging “Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to take decisive action on commonsense policies and reforms.” Skorton also authored a June 2 viewpoint emphasizing the need to address gun violence as a public health crisis and hosted a June 1 podcast on the subject. In collaboration with other health organizations, the AAMC has been encouraging lawmakers to invest in gun violence prevention research, as well as to support hospital-based violence intervention programs [refer to Washington Highlights, July 1, 2021].
In addition, the AAMC also has been advocating greater investments in mental and behavioral health, including previously joining other health care organizations in a letter urging congressional leaders to improve access to children’s mental health care [refer to Washington Highlights, July 30, 2021].