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Proposed legislation to stop mass shootings calls for identifying behavioral threats

Lauren Ziegler, senior legislative assistant, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), makes a point Saturday at NACo’s Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee meeting. Looking on are (right) Steve Janushkowsky, legislative director for Babin and Brad Watts (left), chief counsel, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Photo by Denny Henry

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Could identifying and investigating disturbing behavior stop mass shootings?

That’s the premise behind bipartisan legislation proposed in Congress by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) and Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.).

Members of NACo’s Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee heard about the proposed legislation, the Threat Assessment, Prevention and Safety Act or TAPS (H.R. 838) Act, Saturday morning during the first day of NACo’s 2020 Legislative Conference. (A Senate companion bill is S. 265.)

“The strategy of ‘it won’t happen here’ doesn’t work anymore,” Steve Janushkowsky, legislative director for Babin, told NACo members. “Nothing ends up being accomplished.”

A conversation with one constituent of Babin’s inspired the proposed legislation aimed at curtailing mass shootings, Janushkowsky said.

“Nobody just snaps,” said Lauren Ziegler, senior legislative assistant in Babin’s office. “One of the problems we’re finding…say this information comes to a co-worker, there’s not really an avenue for ‘What do we do?’ There’s this gray area.”

“We need to find a way to fill the void,” she said. “It’s about patterns of concerning behavior. You can look at risk factors.”

“That’s something we should all advocate for,” said steering committee member Sally Heyman, commissioner, Miami-Dade County.

Later in the day, steering committee members passed a proposed interim policy resolution backing the proposed legislation.

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