Monday, February 04, 2013

House Democrats working to stem violence in Arizona communities

House Democrats working to stem violence in Arizona communities

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – After a week of more violence, in Arizona and across the country, House Democrats are working to find ways to make communities safer and to prevent more tragedies from affecting the state.

“Like many, I am saddened by the shooting in my district on Jan. 30,” Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), said. “My thoughts are with the community, the families and the friends of the people affected by this tragedy.”

Meyer said he realizes that there is little he can say that will comfort those who lost people they care about but he supports efforts to curb future violence.

“Unfortunately, incidents like this are happening with what appears to be increased frequency. The shooting in Phoenix happened the same week as a school shooting in Atlanta and a hostage situation in Alabama,” Meyer said. “There were also two more shootings in Phoenix this past Friday. A recent report shows that there have been nearly 1,300 gun-related deaths in the country since the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December. We can’t afford to put this off. We have to find ways to keep our communities and our kids safe.”

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 24), agreed. After the Newtown, Connecticut shooting Campbell introduced the Safer Schools, Safer Communities Plan. The plan is a series of nine bills designed to provide a comprehensive approach to protecting Arizona schools and communities from gun violence. The plan includes resources and funding for mental health services and for school counselors. All but one of the bills has been assigned to committees in the Legislature, although none have been heard in committee.

“We have to accept that much of this violence is related to untreated mental illness,” Campbell said. “That is a difficult conversation to have but unless we talk about it, we will not be able to develop real solutions to very real problems in our state and our country.”

Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson (District 9), is a licensed, professional counselor specializing in substance abuse, domestic violence and relationship issues.  She said she lives less than a mile from the location of the mass shooting in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011.

“That event changed my life and my community,” Steele said. “Prevention is the best way to avoid tragedies like we saw last week in Phoenix and two years ago in Tucson.”

Steele plans to introduce legislation this week that will help people better identify, understand and respond to mental illness.

“We have to help people know how to respond to mental illness. Most people are better prepared to help someone having a heart attack than to help someone with emotional distress. Also, we must remove the stigma that is often associated with mental illness,” Steele said. “If we do that, we will make treatment more accessible to the people who need it as a result, make our communities safer.”


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