Ending violence by prioritizing mental health, school safety

One year ago, a small, rural community of about 15,000 people experienced the deadliest school shooting in Texas history. As Uvalde mourns the loss of 19 children and two teachers, we are called to address the mass shootings that have plagued our nation.

As a father of six children, I feel deeply for the survivors who lost loved ones on May 24, 2022. As a 20-year U.S. Navy veteran, I shudder to think of the war zone that erupted at Robb Elementary School. As the congressional representative for Uvalde, San Antonio and El Paso, I take seriously my obligation to put an end to this violence — and I’m leading the fight in Washington, D.C., to do that.

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While our political climate has become more divisive, the love of our children unites us. Following the tragedy in Uvalde, I joined Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of Congress to craft the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, or BSCA. This historic legislation was signed into law last June, and the results have been transformative. The BSCA expands access to mental health resources, strengthens school safety and helps identify violent offenders before a crisis occurs.

It provides billions of dollars for community-based mental health services. It also grants hundreds of millions of dollars to enhance school security, hire school resource officers and train students, educators, faculty and law enforcement to recognize and respond to the signs of a mental health crisis. This bill is saving lives. Since the BSCA was signed into law, dozens of violent tragedies have been prevented. The BSCA has been so successful that the Texas Legislature overwhelmingly approved a similar bill this session.

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That said, everything worthwhile in Congress comes at a price. Despite its outcomes, the BSCA has been a political landmine, being labeled by the fringes in both parties as “too much” or “not enough.” If these fringe voices had their way, nothing would get done. Serious legislators work in the realm of the possible, and saving lives should never be a political issue.

This has been my approach since my first day in office: more results, less grandstanding. In Uvalde alone, we have secured millions of dollars for a new mental health facility, an update to the emergency operations center and campus security improvements for Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District.

What happened at Robb Elementary is personal to me. As a child, I spent time in a San Antonio battered women and children’s shelter. Home was not a safe place, and school was my sanctuary from the chaos. To think that so many children and their parents are now terrified of the classroom is a tragedy. Schools should be safe havens for our nation’s youth. Parents and children should never have to worry about an attack.

That is exactly why I created the Bipartisan School Safety and Security Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. This caucus will enable citizens and members of Congress to improve the learning environment for our students. If children feel unsafe at school, they are deprived of the chance to reach their full potential.

The people of Texas’ Congressional District 23 have my unwavering support. I will always fight for priorities that enhance the lives of the people I represent.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the Bipartisan School Safety and Security Caucus are only a start. We must do more to ensure every child feels safe at school. As the Uvalde community continues to grieve and heal from the devastating attack, rest assured there is a voice in Washington leading the mission to make schools and communities a safer place.

U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Republican, represents Congressional District 23, which includes San Antonio and Uvalde.

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