Sen. John Cornyn Talks About the Response Act

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), is hoping a new gun act, can make a big difference.

"Hopefully save lives, that is what this is all about," said Cornyn.

His legislation addresses three areas. According to a release his office sent out, this is how the legislation works.

Giving New Tools to Law Enforcement

• "Encouraging Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to Better Collaborate with Law Enforcement to Prevent Mass Shootings —Clarifies that internet service providers and online platforms have the authority to share information with law enforcement concerning acts of mass violence, hate crimes, or domestic terrorism.

• Prosecuting Illegal Unlicensed Firearms Dealers—Creates nationwide federal, state, and local law enforcement task forces (modeled on Project Exile) to investigate and prosecute criminals who are violating current law by engaging in the business of selling firearms without a license or who provide false statements as part of a background check. Provides grant funding and reimbursement to state and local law enforcement who participate in these task forces.

• Expediting the Death Penalty for Terrorist Mass Violence—Expedites administration of state death penalties for individuals who commit mass murder as part of a crime of international or domestic terrorism by limiting the scope of federal appeals.

Expanding Resources for Mental Health Treatment

• Increasing Access to Mental Health Treatment and Crisis Intervention Teams —Requires HHS to develop and disseminate guidance for states to fund mental health programs and crisis intervention teams under the Medicaid Program.

• Expanding Assisted Outpatient Treatment—Expands the ability of states to receive federal funding for assisted outpatient treatment programs so that family members of the mentally ill can help them receive treatment outside of the criminal justice system and before their condition deteriorates.

• Bolstering Mental Health Funding in the Criminal Justice System—Makes up to $10 million of existing DOJ state and local law enforcement funding available for law enforcement to partner with mental health providers to provide mental health treatment and compliance through the use of long-acting medically assisted treatment.

• Expanding the Mental Health Workforce—Requires HHS to issue a report to Congress on best practices to expand the number of mental health practitioners and access to care.

Bolstering School Safety for Students and Teachers

• Incentivizing School Internet Safety to Prevent Mass Violence—Incentivize schools to enforce Internet safety polices that detect online activities of minors who are at imminent risk of committing self-harm or extreme violence against others in order to provide students with the services they need and prevent possible violence.

• Increasing Access to Active Shooter Training—Increases law enforcement and first responder access to active shooter training funds provided by the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security.

• Assisting School Behavioral Intervention Teams—Directs the Department of Health and Human Services to identify and facilitate the development of best practices to assist elementary schools, secondary schools, and institutions of higher education to operate behavioral intervention teams to identify students whose behavior indicates a threat of violence and ensure they receive the assistance and services they need."

For the mental health component, Cornyn visited Dallas County's mental illness court. He met with a judge, representative of law enforcement, and mental health expert. That meeting helped shape part of the bill.

"What I saw is that actually people who otherwise would frequent the emergency room, or be arrested for petty crimes and be warehoused in jails, were actually getting treatment, and getting better, and leading more productive lives. So it actually helps people who are experiencing mental health crises from being a danger to themselves and perhaps others, but also ends up saving taxpayers money by making sure they are not a frequent flyer at the emergency room or at the jailhouse," said Senator Cornyn.

This bill creates task forces to go after unlicensed illegal gun dealers, who don't do background checks. It does not call for universal background checks. Senator Cornyn was asked whether he would be open to universal background checks at some point.

"Well that means different things to different people. I would say if it is somebody, you know, friends and family, the idea that you need to go through the process of a background check seems to me to be unnecessary and unduly burdensome. That's not the problem that I think we have seen manifest in these shootings. But if the problem is people who are circumventing the background check system by going to unlicensed dealers, like the one, like the shooter in Midland-Odessa did, then I think our bill addresses that because it would take the unlicensed firearms dealer off the street, and make sure that the only place they can go is a licensee who has to do a background check," added Senator Cornyn.

Texas Democratic Party communications director, Abhi Rahman said about the legislation, "After taking over $210,000 from the gun lobby, refusing to denounce gun violence and white supremacy in the direct aftermath of the El Paso shooting, and taking money from the NRA directly between the El Paso and Midland-Odessa tragedies, it's no surprise that John Cornyn would introduce a bill that doesn't include expanding background checks or reducing the amount of weapons of war on our streets.Texans deserve real solutions to solve our gun violence epidemic -- not half measures that are meant purely to score political points."

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