Colorado lawmaker dismayed by gun violence but offers solutions beyond banning bump stocks

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October 10, 2017, 11:45 am

After the obligatory “thoughts and prayers” statements from members of Congress have died down in the wake of the nation’s worst mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 2, the prevailing national response seems to be cynicism, acceptance of a “new normal” and an overwhelming and crushing doubt that lawmakers will do anything to try to stop the relentless bloodshed.

Most analysts believe the National Rifle Association’s willingness to consider regulating bump stocks like the ones the Las Vegas shooter used to convert legal semi-automatic assault weapons into illegal fully automatic machine guns is just a bid to avoid broader congressional conversations about keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists and the mentally ill.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder

Boulder Democrat Jared Polis shares the national dismay about the ongoing slaughter (more than 11,000 Americans killed by guns last year, not counting suicides) but isn’t convinced nothing can be done, even though he serves in a chamber controlled by Republicans steadfastly opposed to even the most common-sense gun and mental health laws.

“I am devastated and horrified, but not shocked,” said Polis, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination to run for governor in 2018. “Mass shootings must not become the new normal. While I am praying for the victims and everyone affected, I am also calling on my fellow members of Congress to act. If not now, when? We can save lives while protecting our Second Amendment rights.”

Polis points to his co-sponsorship of the bipartisan Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, requiring comprehensive background checks for firearm purchases. The bill’s primary sponsor is New York Republican Peter King.

Polis also opposed anti-gun violence prevention bills that would have kept the Veterans Affairs and Social Security Administration from entering mental health information into the federal background check database, and he supports a resolution to set up a congressional committee on gun violence prevention.

In a 2015 opinion piece in the Boulder Daily Camera, Polis voiced his support for comprehensive background checks, an end to the congressional ban on public health research into the causes of gun violence, and a ban on gun purchases by anyone on an FBI terrorism watch list.

In Eagle County, Colo., Public Health and Environment Director Chris Lindley announced in a letter to the Vail Daily that the county will soon be offering a mental health first-aid training course that will be free and open to the public (see press release below), and he made the case for increased mental health services in an excellent column that ran recently in the Vail Daily.

Lindley also offered counseling services for anyone struggling with the psychological impacts of the Las Vegas shooting, pointing to these free, local 24/7 crisis services:

  • 24/7 Local Crisis Hotline: 888-207-4004
  • 24/7 Colorado Crisis Services Statewide Hotline: 844-493-TALK (8255)
  • 24/7 Text Line: Text TALK to 38255

The services also are there for anyone in any kind of mental-health crisis. A reminder occurred in Eagle on Monday when police and ambulance services responded to a “subject in crisis” on Fourth of July Road in Eagle Ranch.

“In this mountain community, where we have very limited mental health resources, it is key that we pull together and support one another,” Lindley wrote in his letter. “Whether we agree on things or not, we are all neighbors”

Ballot 1A in November asks voters to support a tax on recreational marijuana to direct an estimated $1.2 million a year to mental illness and substance abuse services in the Eagle River and Roaring Fork valleys.

Here’s the Eagle County press release on mental health training:

County offers free mental health training

Oct. 10, 2017 – Eagle County Public Health & Environment, in partnership with Mind Springs Health, will offer two free courses on Mental Health First Aid. The 8-hour sessions teach participants to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

Both classes will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Garden Level Classroom of the Eagle County Building, located at 500 Broadway in Eagle.

The first will take place on Oct. 23 and will be directed toward parents and individuals who work with youth. It will focus on how to discuss and address mental health topics with kids.

The second will be held on Oct. 24 and will train participants on how to reach out and provide initial help for adults who may be developing a mental health or substance abuse problem, or those who are experiencing a crisis.

Breakfast and lunch are included with the free sessions. Space is limited; community members are asked to RSVP by Oct. 20 to Eagle County Public Health & Environment Director Chris Lindley at chris.lindley@eaglecounty.us.

And here’s the contact information for members of Colorado’s congressional delegation:

Senate

Michael Bennet, Democrat

261 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-5852

Contact: www.bennet.senate.gov/?p=contact

Cory Gardner, Republican

354 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington DC 20510

(202) 224-5941

Contact: www.gardner.senate.gov/contact-cory/email-cory

House of Representatives

District 1 – Diane DeGette, Democrat

2111 Rayburn House Office Building

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

(202) 225-4431

Contact: https://degette.house.gov/contact

District 2 – Jared Polis, Democrat

1727 Longworth House Office Building

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

(202) 225-2161

Contact: https://polis.house.gov/contact/

District 3 – Scott Tipton, Republican

218 Cannon House Office Building

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

(202) 225-4761

Contact: https://tipton.house.gov/contact/email

District 4 – Ken Buck, Republican

1130 Longworth House Office Building

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

(202) 225-4676

Contact: https://buck.house.gov/contact

District 5 – Doug Lamborn, Republican2402 Rayburn House Office BuildingU.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515(202) 225-4422

Contact: https://lamborn.house.gov/contact/

District 6 – Mike Coffman, Republican

2443 Rayburn House Office Building

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

(202) 225-7882

Contacts: https://coffman.house.gov/contact/

District 7 – Ed Perlmutter, Democrat

1410 Longworth House Office Building

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

(202) 225-2645

Contacts: https://perlmutter.house.gov/forms/writeyourrep/

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David O. Williams
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Politics formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, SKI Magazine, Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), Ski Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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