U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton supports law to keep mentally ill from acquiring guns

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is shown on Capitol Hill in this file photo.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is shown on Capitol Hill in this file photo.

ROGERS -- U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton told a group of law enforcement officers Monday that Congress can cooperate to pass legislation aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill.

"I hope we can agree that we need better mental health procedures and policies in this country," Cotton, R-Ark., said at the Arkansas Sheriff's Association meeting.

He called for Congress to make it easier for law enforcement and others to go to a judge and present evidence from family members or neighbors that a young person shouldn't have access to firearms.

"Many states have done that as well. I think we should take a look at that," he said.

Cotton was speaking after mass shootings this weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that killed at least 31. A shooter killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, and another nine died in Dayton.

"These shootings are terrible atrocities," Cotton said.

Cotton praised law enforcement for its response in Dayton. It could have been much worse if it hadn't been for the bravery and skill of law enforcement officers, he said.

"One common thread in these shootings, not only in the United States but in other countries, is young, angry and alienated young men, often times with mental health problems," he said.

If family members, teachers, preachers or coaches see problems -- especially in a young person -- then they can go to law enforcement to try to keep guns out their hands, he said.

Joshua Mahony, who has announced plans to challenge Cotton next year for his Senate seat, said he likes Cotton's approach to try to prevent the mentally ill from getting a firearm. Mahony said he wants to hear more information on how it can be accomplished.

Congress has proven unable to pass substantial gun violence legislation this session, in large part because of resistance from Republicans, particularly in the GOP-controlled Senate.

After other mass shootings, President Donald Trump called for strengthening the federal background check system, and in 2018 he signed legislation to increase federal agency data sharing. But he has resisted Democratic calls to toughen other gun control laws.

Cotton said Congress will have to address the mental health issue and immigration when it reconvenes after the August recess. There is still a crisis at the border, he said.

Cotton said he wanted to speak at the sheriff's association meeting to honor Mike Stephens, who was killed last month in the line of duty. Stephens, a Stone County sheriff's deputy, was shot after responding to a domestic call.

Information for this report was provided by staff members of The Associated Press.


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