U.S. Rep. Ron Barber today joined colleagues from the congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force in a meeting with Vice President Joseph Biden as they discussed a comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence.
Barber is one of the vice chairs of the task force.
"I am focused on making sure that we take steps to identify and treat people who have mental illness before they can harm themselves or others," Barber said after today's meeting. "In a number of mass shootings, untreated or undiagnosed serious mental illness has been an underlying cause."
Barber and his congressional colleagues today met with Biden and other administration officials at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Also attending the meeting were Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
In addition to Barber, Congressman Mike Thompson of California, chair of the congressional task force, attended the meeting along with task force members Reps. John D. Dingell of Michigan, Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, Carolyn McCarthy of New York, Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, Bobby Scott of Virginia and Jackie Speier of California.
This week, Barber will introduce the Mental Health First Aid Act, a bill he cosponsored in the 112th Congress. He will reintroduce the bill in a broader form with the input of his Mental Health Task Force in Arizona, which he met with last Friday. The bill will provide training to help people identify and respond to signs of mental illness.
Last week, Barber sent a letter to Vice President Biden urging the presidential task force headed by Biden to include the Mental Health First Aid Act in its recommendations for addressing gun-related violence.
Today, Barber presented Biden with information about the bill and stressed its importance as one important step to decrease stigma and increase awareness.
Barber told the vice president, "I approach the issue of gun violence prevention in several ways: as a supporter of the Second Amendment, as a survivor of a mass shooting and as a grandfather. I have worked for 32 years with individuals living with mental illness and know the struggles they face, along with their families, to fight stigma and get the treatment they need. We must act now."
Barber has extensive experience in the mental health field from a 32-year career as an administrator with the Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities.
He also was critically wounded two years ago when a gunman opened fire at a Congress On Your Corner event hosted by then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Barber was Giffords' district director. Six people were killed and 13 wounded at the event.