President Obama's new gun control proposals don't just focus on guns. They also call for improvements in mental health care.
The national discussion on gun control has been punctuated by the idea that mental health care is also an important part of the equation.
That's why, in addition to asking Congress to pass tougher gun control laws, the president today also announced 23 executive actions related to curbing gun violence. Several of those executive actions focus on mental health, according to Fox News, namely:
- Clarifying to state health officials which mental health services are covered under Medicare;
- Working to finalize mental health parity regulations; and
- Launching a naitonal dialogue on mental health, led by the secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services.
Already, mental health issues can disqualify people from owning guns, reports CNN. So President Obama's proposals instead focus on care.
He's asking for better training for mental health professionals and school counselors so they can better recognize the signs of mental illness and provide help. First responders would also receive better training to detect warning signs of trouble, reports CBS News.
These proposals coincide with the upcoming implementation of the Mental Health Parity Act. The Act would require insurers to make sure that limits on mental health care are no more restrictive than those for any other medical benefits.
In other words, the Act aims to make mental health care more easily available.
Some of the proposals mentioned on Wednesday will be done by executive order. That allows a president to implement rules without Congress' approval.
But many of the proposals can't be implemented without Congress' help. That's especially true of proposals that require additional funding. Congress controls the power of the purse; the president alone cannot make funding decisions.
Still, the president's statement was not just grandstanding. He's now given Congress valuable information on what bills he's likely to approve.
Any proposed legislation requires the president's signature to become law. If Congress comes up with gun control or mental health bills, and President Obama doesn't find them acceptable, he can block them with a veto.
Wednesday's announcement was the beginning of a long process to keep Americans safer from gun violence. The next step lies largely in the hands of Congress.