“Yes, I think it was,” Republican Senator Thom Tillis says of Cornyn’s unscientific news snippet.
For Tillis what Data that truly unified the disparate group of progressives and conservatives was data—just not gun data. Instead, their negotiations were most heavily influenced by former President John F. Kennedy.
On October 31, 1963, Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, a measure aimed at replacing asylums with community-based mental hospitals. Kennedy was gunned down three weeks later, burying the promise of his vision to reform mental health care in the United States. In the decades that followed, communities across the country gave up asylums, but solid funding for local clinics never materialized.
In 2014, Congress passed the Excellence in Mental Health Act, promising the realization of JFK’s now half-century-old dream. Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri and Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan teamed up to pass these mental health reforms, and they’ve since pursued the pilot programs their law initially set up in eight states. Over a five-year period, these federally supported certified community behavioral health clinics “had 63.2% fewer emergency room visits for behavioral health problems, experienced a 40.7% decrease in homelessness, and spent 60.3% less time in correctional facilities.” , according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
These results, and the statistics associated with them, proved magnetic for Washington’s fiscal conservatives and defund-the-police progressives alike.
“It was critical because other people wanted to do something and had ideas, but none of it was developed or implemented,” says Stabenow. “People felt it was real. It was tangible.”
A big selling point is that in order to be eligible for the federal program, states are required to establish 24-hour manned mental health crisis centers. This reduces police accountability, which has been appreciated by law enforcement groups across the country who don’t want officers tasked with mental health duties. So this summer, that local effort was nationalized as part of the compromise measure.
“There have been some across the country, but no national effort to make it happen,” Blunt says. “We had a program that worked and produced significant results that had widespread support from law enforcement, emergency departments and families who did not have the type of relief they needed for the mental health issues of peaceful people.”
The Blunt-Stabenow Mental Health Program provided Senate negotiators with unambiguous data from states as diverse as Oklahoma and New York for about five years. That proved essential to his admission.
“We started using as much data as possible to say, ‘This is hypothetical, this is measurable,'” says Tillis. “It was tangible”
That’s why Cornyn isn’t wrong when he balks at the gun control label. About two-thirds of the funds being put into the new federal gun law will go to behavioral health. Lawmakers, based on the results of these local pilot programs, expect a trickle-down effect nationwide as police officers are replaced (on paper, at least) with much-needed mental health professionals.
“In the end we asked ourselves, ‘What are the root causes?'” says Tillis. “When we look at the gun fatality reduction and behavioral health associated with many of these active shooting environments, we used data to say, ‘What decisions could we make that most likely would? the best result?’”
Then there are the Border between USA and Mexico. Mexico estimates that some 2 million proudly American-made guns have flooded its streets and those of its own southern neighbors, fueling staggering — and unquantifiable — bloodshed. And the violence in return causes hundreds of thousands to leave their homes and risk their lives to move north every year.
One of the most dramatic changes included in the new law alters the relationship between the United States and Mexico, as well as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras (also known as the Northern Triangle).