Improved mental health support needed

Published 10:38 am Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Roanoke Times published a story and an editorial noting that of all the recommendations of the Virginia Tech Review Panel, the one item of significance that has not been implemented is universal background checks. The review panel was successful in identifying flaws in our approach to mental health and firearms. The Crime Commission has already identified flaws in our dealing with suicide and urban violence in relation to firearms.

The Northam Administration launched an audit of the Virginia Tech Review Panel after the July 9 Special Session to see what, if any, recommendations had been implemented by the General Assembly.

This audit shows the dedication that the General Assembly had when it came to addressing the flaws in our system that allowed the tragedy at Virginia Tech to happen.

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Of the recommendations that were presented, the vast majority were adopted and implemented.

The Virginia Tech panel was unique in that it took a hard look at where Virginia laws went wrong in allowing someone who should have been intercepted at multiple points to obtain a firearm and attack.

The review panel found that, while the shooter passed background checks, he should not have. His commitment to a mental health facility should have barred him, but that information never made it into the background check system.

Democrats have made it clear they have one objective: pass gun control laws, regardless of whether or not they would work to reduce violence.

Months after Virginia Beach, we still don’t know how our system failed to detect and stop the shooter.

In a recent update, investigators said they still have no motive, and there were no obvious financial or mental health issues that suggest the shooter was a threat.

No one will argue the fact that far too many Virginians lose their lives via guns every year.

But the vast majority of those are suicides, which speaks to the need for an improved mental health support network.

In 2016, there were roughly 350 homicides committed with firearms, compared with 663 suicides by firearm.

As we learned from testimony before the Crime Commission, those homicides fall disproportionately on young, African American men in our cities.

The Virginia Tech panel found problems in our laws, and Republicans led the effort to fix them. As we’ve already seen from the Crime Commission process, gun deaths in Virginia can be addressed with suicide prevention and group violence interdiction.

At the Special Session in July, Democrats attempted to block consideration of any legislation that wasn’t gun control — including consideration of mental health bills and aid to the City of Virginia Beach.

“Solutions” that don’t take those facts into account aren’t solutions at all. Democrats want an issue to campaign on; Republicans want to save lives.

As a reminder, refund checks authorized by this year’s budget bill are currently being mailed to qualified tax payers. The House Republican Majority worked day and night during the regular session to not only stop Democrats from hiking taxes by more than $1 billion, but also establish a Taxpayer Relief Fund that will see any windfall from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act returned to the taxpayers.

Refunds began being mailed the week of September 15.

DEL. C. MATTHEW FARISS represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is