Confronting the Epidemic of Gun Violence
Matt believes the 2nd Amendment does give individuals the rights to bear arms. As a gun owner, a member of a military family, and as the father of an expert marksman, Matt understands the role of guns in the culture of Southwest Michigan and doesn’t want to take away the rights of responsible gun owners.
Matt also doesn’t believe the 2nd Amendment has been interpreted to mean that ANY individual can own ANY firearm at ANY time, and Matt believes we must immediately take a public health approach to confront the epidemic of gun violence in this country. After every mass shooting, we see members of Congress sending thoughts and prayers to victims, but they don’t do much in the way of passing legislation that will engineer gun injury and gun violence out of our lives. Matt wants to change that and can bring years of experience in bringing a public health approach to gun violence to the policy debates in Washington.
We need good short- and long-term policies to respond to the epidemic. It will take us decades to get a handle on gun violence in the U.S., but we can’t let ‘perfection be the enemy of the good’ when debating gun violence prevention policies.
For long-term reductions in gun violence and gun injury, we need to fund the Center for Disease Control fully and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) for the foreseeable future, as we have funded the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) since the 1970s. Just as FARS has led to the development of consumer safety standards in car manufacturing (air-bags, seat-belts, etc.) and laws (blood-alcohol level limits, graduated drivers’ licenses, etc.) and transportation system enhancements (rumble strips, guardrails, etc.), the NVDRS could help us to identify patterns in the gun violence epidemic that can be best addressed in a number of ways to reduce the number of gun injuries in the U.S. We also need to expand and modernize the background check system that makes sure we keep guns out of the hands of people who should not possess them. Red-Flag provisions should allow for law enforcement and judges to use their discretion in blocking sales and even taking away guns from those who should not own them. Our mental health systems, especially in rural health systems, need support because the top reason for gun death in the 6th district is suicide by older white males, and if we can expand our mental health services we can also reduce the number of suicides. Congress should also support local and state efforts to run ‘buyback’ and ‘meltdown’ programs, just like we support public safety efforts to collect and dispose of unused and unsafe medications.
In the short term, we must be focused on protecting the most vulnerable among us: kids in schools and victims of domestic violence. Arming teachers is not a solution Matt supports. Matt wants fewer guns in schools, not more of them. Appropriating funding for schools to adapt their security systems to 21st-century threats is something Matt supports. Providing funding for trained public safety officers to be present on school campuses, and with access to firearms, is not something Matt opposes. But, as part of any debate about how we fund school safety, Matt also believes we should be leveraging the resources of our health care system and supporting school-based health centers, school nurses, and counseling staff with mental health surveillance competencies. Matt believes these professionals are more likely than metal detectors to identify higher-risk children and adolescents who might have problems that could lead to violence in the future, and that we should be providing at-risk students the care and social services they need.