After the longest government shutdown in history and a midterm election characterized as a partisan reckoning, you must be surprised that a new bill not only has support on both sides of the aisle but also tackles one of our country’s most persistent – and controversial – issues: mass shootings and targeting violence.
I was pleased to find that the emphasis of this bill was rightly placed on prevention – and more than that – threat assessment. The new bill would increase federal funding available to develop such programs. This leadership from our lawmakers could significantly expand threat assessment’s influence in preventing violence.
A Bipartisan Bill That Promises Threat Assessment and Violence Prevention
In early 2019, U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced the Threat Assessment, Prevention, and Safety (TAPS) Act of 2019 (S. 265). U.S. Representatives Brian Babin (TX-36) and Val Demings (D-FL) proposed companion legislation in the House.
According to a summary from Senator Rubio’s office, the TAPS Act will create a Joint Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management Task Force that will assist in developing a national strategy to “prevent targeted violence through threat assessment and management, and [provide] evidence-based processes to identify individuals [who] exhibit patterns of dangerous behavior that may precede an act of targeted violence.” This will specifically include elements like school safety, operational training and unit support programs.
This Task Force will be comprised of experts from federal agencies, state and local law enforcement representatives, and mental health service professionals. The Act will consequently create grants for local jurisdictions to reap the benefits of a threat assessment program.
The legislation has been endorsed by a variety of organizations, including the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP), Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) and many statewide organizations from North Carolina and California.
Preventing a Dangerous ‘New Normal’
In justifying this bill, Senator Tillis described in a press release how “we cannot allow mass casualty events to become the new normal in America.” He is right in that we are dangerously close to that line. The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines a “mass shooting” as the killing of four or more, not including the attacker(s). In 2018, there were more than one of these a month. Hundreds more met slightly lower – but still devastating – levels.
The effects of these shootings, beyond the loss of life, can be found in everything from pop culture to many elementary school classrooms, where more and more educators are trying to make active shooter preparation less intimidating – and even cute – for students.
Innovative Solutions for Eliminating Fear
But the TAPS Act is looking to turn that around by offering innovative solutions that are accessible across the country. Rep. Demings, who was also the first female Chief of Police at the Orange Police Department, emphasized that the resources would help state and local law enforcement expand their ability to respond to – or identify – a crisis.
She ultimately said it best: “You should have the right to attend concerts, schools, nightclubs, and places of worship without the fear of violence.”