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Ted Deutch, Gus Bilirakis back bill to address school shootings

“This public health crisis is preventable.”

Days after a deadly shooting at a Colorado high school, a bipartisan group of congressmen have introduced new legislation aiming to help identify school threats, as well as beef up suicide prevention programs within the nation’s schools.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch joined his Republican counterpart in Florida, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, to sponsor the legislation.

Also co-sponsoring the bill are U.S. Rep. Scott Peters, a California Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican.

The measure, dubbed the Suicide and Threat Assessment Nationally Dedicated to Universal Prevention (STANDUP) Act of 2019, aims to “to encourage schools to expand evidence-based suicide prevention training to students in grades 6 through 12,” according to a Thursday release on the bill.

“The legislation would provide training to students and schools for threat identification, triage, and intervention, as well as guidance and protocol for coordinating with local law enforcement using established school threat assessment models.”

“Especially among children and young adults, gun violence against others or themselves are at heart-wrenching levels in our country,” said Deutch, whose district covers Parkland, the site of a 2018 shooting which killed 17 people.

“But this public health crisis is preventable. We know that often the warning signs are there; we just need to be trained to identify them and react appropriately. This bipartisan bill would help teachers and administrators catch those warning signs and intervene before gun violence tragedies occur.”

While mass shootings typically garner the attention when discussing gun violence in the U.S., approximately 60 percent of the nation’s annual gun deaths are the result of suicides.

“There is no higher priority than keeping our children safe,” Bilirakis added.

“By providing high quality screening and prevention training to school staff and peers, we can identify threats before they materialize, and ensure that those who are at risk get the mental health treatment they need. Sadly, some communities in my district are among those with the highest suicide rates in our state. With training like this, we can help reverse that troubling trend.”

Democrats have consistently pushed to increase gun control measures following shootings in recent years. Many of those efforts have stalled in Congress, with Republicans generally opposed.

It remains to be seen whether the STANDUP Act of 2019, with its focus on non-gun-related measures to attempt to cut down on school shootings, will earn broad enough support to get to the President’s desk.

The measure is being backed by Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit founded by family members whose loved ones were killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

“The rates of youth suicide and violence occurring in our country’s schools are appalling,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise. His son,  Daniel, was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting.

“We know that with proper training and threat assessment teams embedded in schools that self-harm, violence, and suicide can be preventable. We are proud to partner with these bipartisan champions to pass this critical legislation to ensure that more youth and adults ‘know the signs’ to properly intervene before a tragedy can occur and we urge Congress to pass this bill.”

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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