Monday, September 12, 2016

If guns come before mental health, that’s just crazy

   We interrupt non-stop coverage about what happens during an NFL national anthem to bring news that actually might matter.

   (By the way, ending that national anthem crisis is simple, says my wife: Stop televising it. Three national annoyances go away at once: pop stars butchering it, sports stars protesting it, and media fixating on it.)

   Now, as promised, a matter that actually affects lives:

   While lawmakers of both parties are standing to salute a good idea to address mental health, one man has been criticized for taking a knee – kneeling toward the gun lobby.

   That would be Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

Cornyn promoting a mental health bill that has supporters in both parties. However, his inclination to combine gun matters with mental health matters threatens the very things everyone else supports.

   The legislation would result in more psychiatric beds, something the nation sorely needs and both parties support. It also would signify a shift away from treating prisons as America's mental hospitals of choice.

   The most amazing thing to report is that the House of Representatives supports this.

   Yes, that House. The governing body which has done nothing of consequence since supplying the chips for National Salute to Guacamole Day.

   Believe it: The House overwhelmingly passed a measure in July to increase psychiatric beds and do better for the mentally ill. It was seen as the Republican response to Newtown-style, Aurora-style killings committed by mentally ill individuals.

   "Our mental health system in this country is a failure," said Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., the House bill's sponsor, "and this is one of those times when we're not gathered for a moment of silence, but a time of action."

   Ah, yes. Moments of silence after mass murders. Another matter of pompous pointlessness.

   So, how could guns have any bearing at all on mental health legislation? Here's how.

   A Cornyn-sponsored bill in the Senate, which would do many of the things approved by the House, has gun-related language that could sap Democratic support and kill it.

   For one, it would require a judge's order to ban someone from buying guns due to mental illness. For another, it would allow people previously committed for mental illness to purchase a gun as soon as a judge's commitment order expires.

   Why include these combustible matters in proposal for treating the mentally ill?

   Cornyn did it for the very reason Mitch McConnell recently said there will be no new Supreme Court justice until the National Rifle Association says it approves of the nominee. Cornyn is doing what too many lawmakers do, scratching the NRA's every itch.

   (By the way, Sen. McConnell, the voters might have something to say in November about this court matter if they take away the Senate majority that places the NRA in such a position.)

   In this dust-up, we see the abomination of attaching polarizing riders against contraception and for flying the Confederate flag at VA cemeteries to legislation that almost everyone agrees is needed. That's been the problem with a Zika funding bill. The Republicans say we need it, but loaded it up with poison pills certain to draw the president's veto. Last week, consequently, the Centers for Disease Control said it was just about to run out of Zika funding.

   Back to mental health: It is encouraging to report that Cornyn says he'll consider dropping the gun initiatives so legislation can advance.

   That would mean that Congress – this Congress – actually agreed to do something that would benefit the American people. How about that?

   We now return you to your previously scheduled distraction.

   Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

No comments: