Rep. Tim Burchett was a relative unknown outside of Tennessee before his comments about gun control earlier this week. In the wake of the school shooting in Nashville that killed six, he proclaimed, "We're not gonna fix it," referring to tougher gun laws addressing gun violence in America. "Criminals are gonna be criminals." The Republican congressman, who says he received a lot of "hatred" after those remarks, later noted that "repenting of your sins" was one way to "turn this thing around." Now, he says he's come around to adding other solutions into the mix, indicating he's been talking with colleagues on the other side of the aisle about one remedy in particular.
"I spoke with several Democrats yesterday about how something would look, and I ... floated ideas about mental health," Burchett told reporters on Thursday, per the Hill, which notes that police say the shooter at the Covenant School had been treated for an emotional disorder. The outlet adds, however, that "authorities have not linked the shooting to that disorder." But Burchett is convinced, as "obviously, a mentally ill girl shot up a school in Nashville ... There's just no question about it: She was mentally ill." Burchett didn't get into too much detail on what specific legislative proposals he was considering, though he conceded that privacy protections under such laws as HIPAA could make sussing out who should be allowed access to guns tricky.
The Hill also points out that "the vast majority" of mental health patients don't turn to violence—and Dems have long noted that other nations also wrangle with mental health issues, yet don't have the same rate of gun violence as the United States. Burchett isn't the only Republican trying to steer the focus back to mental health. The Washington Post talked to other lawmakers this week about the Nashville shooting, and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, himself a shooting survivor, said Tuesday, "We've talked about the need to improve mental health in this country, and that's been a driver of a lot of these shootings." Scalise also pointed to the need for "stronger security" in schools. (Here, an open letter to Burchett from local journalist Betty Bean, a longtime friend who implores him to "stop this foolishness.")