Since announcing my candidacy for Congress, I have been out in the community asking, “What issues are most important to you?” Areas such as healthcare, jobs and the environment were expected answers that I have received often. But there was one common response which I heard more that I expected: crime and safety. I dove into this issue, meeting with community leaders and law enforcement, asking questions, listening and learning.
There is a reason why the issue of community safety is close to my heart. My father was a police officer for 34 years, before he retired as a Captain. When you spend your formative years worrying about whether or not your dad will get hurt while serving and protecting others, there grows a deeply rooted belief that we need to make the necessary investments to both support law enforcement and to work towards building safer communities. We do that not just by hiring more officers and building more jails, but by attacking the root of the issues that erode public safety.
3 Areas of Community Safety I Will Support:
- Substance Abuse Treatment
- Mental Health Care
- Common-sense Gun Laws
Substance Abuse Treatment
Drugs drive ¾ of the crime in Eastern Washington. A representative from the Spokane police department told me, “if you fixed the drug problem, we could police the city with a force ¼ of the size.” While on a ride along with an SPD officer he said, “I spend 100% of my time on the same 10% of the population,” referencing the impact that drugs have on crime.
In order to fix this issue, we need both a carrot and a stick. The “stick” is our criminal justice system, the “carrot” is rehabilitation. Our jails are already overflowing with inmates, and we certainly should arrest and lock up those who dare to traffic illegal drugs in our community. What we are not doing enough of, however, is rehabilitating those now stuck in an addiction. When we break that pattern, we lower further criminal activity.
We do not have enough rehabilitation capacity in Eastern Washington. There is currently a 7 week wait to get into a treatment program in Spokane, so by the time a spot opens up the addict may have already relapsed into their ailment. Additionally, it could take as many as seven rehabilitation attempts to break through the addiction in order for it to work.
I will support efforts that invest in:
- Recovery Treatment
- Relapse Prevention
- Sober Support Groups
Additionally, we have an opioid crisis. This issue adds an additional level of complexity, in that these are often prescription drugs. This means we need to look at the medical industry and address the ease of access and overprescription issues that are precipitating this epidemic.
I will support the “Access to Substance Abuse Treatment Act of 2016 (H.R.4378).” My only questions with it are: 1) why does it not (yet) have bipartisan support? and 2) why has it been stuck in committee for nearly 2 years??
When we look at this issue, think of both the individual and the larger community. Creating a better, healthier life for the individual while also creating a safer community with less crime is a win-win for all of us.
Mental Health Care
Mental health issues impact tens of millions of Americans, and indirectly impacts all of us through family and friends. Too often, though, we hesitate to talk about mental health issues. These impacts are far too devastating for us to avoid talking about simply because it makes us uncomfortable.
Here are the facts from the National Alliance on Mental Health:
- 1 in 5 Americans are affected by mental illness in a given year.
- America’s suicide rate is the highest it’s been in 30 years.
- Half of Americans with mental illness did not get any mental health care in the past year.
- Mental health care is unfairly restricted by many health insurance plans.
- 75% of rural and frontier communities do not have any mental health professionals, affecting up to 45 million Americans.
- Mental health and substance use disorders caused more hospitalizations among U.S. troops in 2009 than any other cause.
Our local leaders and law enforcement can attest to the fact that both substance abuse and mental illness play a huge role in contributing to homelessness.
I applaud the bipartisan “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016 (H.R.2646)” which passed the House last year with overwhelming support. I encourage the Senate to bring this to a vote and pass it promptly.
I would support the bipartisan “Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (S. 2680).” Among other things, this bill aids suicide prevention, promotes integration of health and mental health care to treat the whole person, and makes investments in early intervention. If this bill passes the Senate and comes to the House during the 116th Congress, I will support it as your Congressman.
Common-Sense Gun Laws
Enough is Enough
These two things can coexist: support for the right to own guns while also implementing common sense gun laws. We have a public health epidemic related to gun violence in America, and it is incredibly frustrating that any attempt to talk about it gets framed as an attack on the Constitution. That is beyond absurd!
Five years ago, 20 children and 6 staff members were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our leaders said, “never again,” but since then there have been over 1500 more mass shootings. These grab the headlines, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. 117,000 Americans are shot with a gun every year. 33,000 people die because of a gun in the U.S. every year, nearly 12,000 of those are homicides, and 62% of the deaths are suicides. As of October 4th, 3,000 children (550) and teens (2450) have been injured or killed with a gun this year, compared to 234 trained and armed police officers. Are you ok with this? I’m not.
We can’t eliminate all gun deaths, but we know that sensible guns laws would save many lives. How many more people have to die before we do something? Enough is enough. The time to move from thoughts and prayers, to determined action has long since past. It is imperative that we be able to have a conversation about this issue, and then take the decisive action to make reasonable, common-sense laws.
3 Areas of Common-Sense Gun Safety Reform:
- Universal background checks on all gun sales
- Including private sales and gun shows
- The “Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act (H.R.1217)” supports this and has broad bipartisan support
- Requiring a firearm license
- Must be able to pass a basic handling and safety test
- Many states already require this, but need a consistent federal standard
- Banning gun sales to those who are known to be mentally ill
- We had a law that prevented those known to be mentally incapable of even managing their own finances from buying a gun, until Cathy McMorris-Rodgers voted to repeal it this February.
Public safety does not have to be a partisan political issue. We are not talking about restricting the rights of responsible, law-abiding citizens to own a gun and use them for sport, recreation or personal safety. We are not talking about going door to door and taking people’s guns away, or any other perceived attack on the 2nd Amendment. What we are talking about is the need for sensible laws to protect all our citizens.
This is not a hopeless scenario. If we want to save lives, we can. If we want to have safer communities, we can. It will require strong leadership and a bipartisan effort to accomplish it, and that is why I will get it done. If necessary, I will personally walk door to door to the office of every one of my fellow Representatives in order to pass sensible, common-sense laws to create healthier, safer communities. Whatever it takes, I will get this accomplished.
UPDATE: Article was update on 10/9/2017. Current law (U.S.C. § 922(g)(9)) may already cover an area where there was concern that persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence could still purchase a gun.