U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, a vice chair of the congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, today attended the president's speech releasing gun violence prevention measures. Barber's initiative, Mental Health First Aid, was included as a component of the comprehensive proposal to reduce gun-related violence.
Later this afternoon, Barber spoke at a hearing of the congressional task force formed to find ways to reduce and prevent gun violence. At the hearing, Barber introduced Emily Nottingham, mother of Gabe Zimmerman, who was killed in a Tucson shooting two years ago. Zimmerman was an aide to then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
The hearing, "Gun Violence Prevention: A Call to Action," was held jointly by the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and the House Steering and Policy Committee.
Among those asked to testify at the hearing was Nottingham. Her son, Gabe Zimmerman was killed on Jan. 8, 2011 when a gunman fired at Giffords and others at a Congress On Your Corner. Zimmerman was one of six people who died. Thirteen were injured, including Barber and Giffords.
Also testifying were the superintendent of schools in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people were slain at a school last month, a Minnesota police chief and the mayor of Philadelphia.
Barber yesterday introduced the Mental Health First Aid Act, an important step in improving our ability to recognize and treat mental illness in our communities. He shared this initiative with Vice President Biden in a letter on Jan. 7 and at a meeting Monday.
The bill will provide education to increase public awareness of mental illness symptoms and services available by training teachers, students, firefighters, police officers, emergency services workers and others.
Barber today made the following statement on President Obama's proposals:
I was pleased that the president stressed the importance of improving mental health services and called for mental health first aid training in his proposals this afternoon.
We know that untreated or undiagnosed mental illness has been a factor in a number of the recent mass shootings, including the 2011 shooting in Tucson in which six people were killed and 13 wounded.
Since January 2011, more than 1,400 individuals have been trained in mental health first aid in the Tucson area. This is an important step in improving awareness and education about mental illness in our communities.
I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to move forward with common sense proposals to reduce gun violence.
We can wait no longer. We must do our best to reduce and prevent such senseless tragedies.