If there is one thing that we can all agree on as a nation, it’s that the status quo is no longer good enough. No parent wants to live in fear that when they send their child off to school, they might not return home. Violence in our schools is unacceptable. You don’t have to be a Democrat or Republican, or from the Coasts or the Great Plains or anywhere else, to agree about that.
In North Dakota, for example, we have the highest rate of gun ownership in the United States and the lowest rate of gun violence. Growing up in North Dakota has taught me a lot. It’s taught me that a community can shape a person, that family is the backbone of a community, and when someone needs a helping hand, it is family and community that should be there. So why do we as a national community not help those who need it the most? The current system for dealing with mental illness in this country is broken. We need to provide better support for families who may know or suspect that someone close to them may become violent. We need to put a support system in place so that family, friends and others in the community have a viable outlet to report and work through their concerns.
Protecting our children and securing our schools remain my highest priorities when looking for solutions to prevent further tragedies such as the shooting at Sandy Hook. We must have a serious assessment of mental-health services available to families and communities. We must also do everything we can to identify potential perpetrators and prevent those individuals from ever taking the lives of innocent children.
That’s why I will be working with my Democratic colleague Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who has proposed a bipartisan Commission on Mass Violence. The commission would seek the input of experts from across the country, covering the wide spectrum of disciplines involved in addressing the root causes of incidents of mass violence, and would produce a comprehensive plan. The commission would provide bipartisan recommendations to address incidents of mass violence to the president and Congress.
I will work with Sen. Manchin and anyone else who has the same goal as I do. And that goal is one thing: whatever will work to keep our kids safe in school. Every option has to be on the table, whether it is the ultimate success of the Commission on Mass Violence or the expansion of mental-health services, but it will not be a one-size-fits-all that violates the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., was elected in 2012.