On October 23, 2019, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Restoring, Enhancing, Strengthening and Promoting Our Nation’s Safety (RESPONSE) Act: a proposed legislative solution to mass shootings. The RESPONSE Act is, as the title infers, a response to the multiple mass shootings in recent years in the US.
Senator Cornyn is no stranger to proposing legislation in the wake of tragedy. Some of the bill’s provisions, such as targeting unlicensed and unlawful firearm dealers, were suggested in his 2017 Fix NICS bill: a response to the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX. Similarly, the bill’s provision to expand Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) programs echo’s the 21st Century Cures Act, to which he largely contributed. The 21st Century Cures Act became public law in 2016.
As Cornyn explained on the congress floor, the legislation’s push for student surveillance aims to deter acts of violence, hate crimes, and domestic terrorism. Components of the RESPONSE Act include:
• Expanding mental health crisis teams;
• Improving coordination between mental health providers and law enforcement;
• Granting law enforcement “access to information about potential threats—particularly those made online;”
An expected mix of advocacy group reactions
The proposed legislation sparked intense reactions from numerous advocacy groups in the realms of health care, civil rights, law enforcement, and privacy. In fact, more than 20 different organizations have mobilized as the Coalition for Smart Safety to voice their concerns regarding the RESPONSE Act. This coalition includes the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the National Disability Rights Network, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, and the National Association for Rural Mental Health.
However, not all mental health organizations view the bill negatively. Major advocates of the bill include the National Council for Behavioral Health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Treatment Advocacy Center.
Ali Shana is a freelance writer. He is currently studying clinical mental health counseling at the University of Milwaukee, WI. He reports on rehabilitation, drug policy reform, and health care issues.
1. Metzl JM, MacLeish KT. Mental illness, mass shootings, and the politics of American firearms. Am J Pub Health. 2015;105:240-249.
2. Kim S. The Dangers of the Mental Health Narrative When it Comes to Gun Violence. Forbes. Aug. 7, 2019.