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December 18, 2013

Biden Gets It Right (Finally)

Joe Biden doesn’t have the best track record as a go-to source for common sense when it comes to firearms.

After all, the vice president advocated protecting one’s home by randomly firing a shotgun into the air, an act that is both dangerous and illegal. He was also tapped as the Obama administration point person to push a long-standing agenda of partisan gun control measures, despite the fact that none of them would have prevented the tragedies in Newtown and elsewhere.

So given that track record, why is NSSF writing a blog entry with the title “Biden gets it right”?

Because this time the vice president actually did get it right. In recently announcing a $100 million commitment to improve America’s mental health system, albeit belatedly, Biden did more to prevent another act of mass violence than all of the political grandstanding of earlier this year combined.

We have seen what can happen when individuals with severe mental illness go untreated. The atrocities of Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech and the Navy Yard were all carried out by individuals that displayed signs of mental illness but didn’t receive the necessary care. The new funds allocated by the White House will go to improving access to services for the millions of Americans who struggle daily with mental health issues. Instead of ostracizing these individuals and leaving them to care for themselves, these funds will help them receive the care they need to live a full life and be positive, active members of their community.

NSSF has long held that policymakers would be better off addressing the root cause of these violent outbursts, namely mentally unstable individuals slipping through the cracks of a leaky mental health system, than by assigning blame to firearms used safely by millions of law abiding individuals every day. We have long advocated for fixing the federal background check database instead of simply expanding a broken system. Our Fix NICS campaign is pressuring states submit to the federal background check database the involuntary commitment orders and court orders of those adjudicated to be mentally unstable to ensure people that could be a danger to themselves or others cannot access firearms. Fixing NICS is such a commonsense solution, even Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns supports the idea.

Biden’s $100 million pledge continues the promising elevation of mental health issues to a higher place in the national debate. In a September 60 Minutes report, psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey had the following to say:

“We have a grand experiment — what happens when you don’t treat people. But then you’re going to have to accept 10 percent of homicides being killed (sic) by untreated mentally ill people, you’re going to have to accept Tucson and Aurora. You’re going to have to accept Cho at Virginia Tech. These are the consequences when we allow people who need to be treated to go untreated.”

So, for today at least, we say ‘Thank you’ to Joe Biden for taking this first step toward fixing our broken mental health system.

Larry Keane is Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @lkeane.

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Tags: education Firearms government relations gun safety legislation National Shooting Sports Foundation NSSF

Categories: Education, Government Relations, Safety, Top Stories, WTS