To the Editor:
I had the honor of meeting Ms.(Lori) Bennett and four other representatives of NJ Residents for Action where for more than one hour we had what I thought was a cordial and frank discussion on the issues surrounding gun control and gun violence in America.
During the meeting I expressed my willingness to consider a number of gun control measures as part of a comprehensive, anti-violence effort this year.
I restated my support for a comprehensive study of our laws aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, potentially including closing gun-show loopholes and tightening the background-check process on gun sales as well as examining our current entertainment culture where Hollywood and video game makers tend to de-sensitize gun violence.
Committees of jurisdiction in both the U.S. House and Senate are currently working on legislation in these particular areas and I pledged to carefully review these measures upon completion of the committees' work.
I also pointed out that the House Energy and Commerce Committee — of which I am a member – will take a lead role in examining the current state of federal mental health research programs and what role mental illness played in the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora, Tucson and at Virginia Tech.
My committee is already working closely with the Obama Administration on proposals both new and old to better identify and treat people with mental health problems.
For example just last week the Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) listing eleven recommendations made by President Bush following the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings that dealt with mental health issues and asked HHS Secretary Sebelius to provide status updates on each by Feb. 21.
“In order to determine what actions were taken after previous tragedies, and whether those actions were effective, the committee seeks information on the status of HHS’s efforts to implement the recommendations made in the 2007 Report following the Virginia Tech shootings," the letter said. I hope to keep all constituents informed and updated on our efforts.
I do firmly believe that the solutions are as complex as the problems themselves. And while no set of laws can eliminate evil in the world, we as a Nation have an obligation to work together and remain focused on the issue at hand – keeping firearms out of the hands of those in our society who wish to do harm.
I respectfully hope Ms. Bennett and her group will be part of this effort.
Member of Congress