Following a Valentines Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida, House Speaker Paul Ryan held a press conference Thursday in which he skirted the question of whether increased gun control laws are now necessary, and focused more on mental health legislation.
The shooting, which occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday morning, resulted in 17 fatalities and 14 injuries.
“I keep going back to this message that one of the students sent to her mom. She said, ‘If I don’t make it, I love you, and I appreciate everything you did for me,’” Ryan said. “Out of all that fear, for her to think of love and gratitude for her parents — we can learn a lot from our kids.”
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While Ryan said it was too early to jump to conclusions without knowing all the facts from yesterday’s shooting, the press conference focused on mental health and how to prevent matters like this from happening again.
Ryan said mental health is often a major issue underlying these tragedies and may be the case with the Parkland shooting.
“We passed legislation on mental health,” Ryan said. “We want to make sure that if someone is in the mental health system, that they don’t get a gun if they aren’t supposed to get a gun.”
He also referred to legislation which would “clean up” the instant background check system.
Ryan said Congress has to come up with a solution which addresses how people who should not have a gun come to possess one.
“I think we have to probably do a better job of making sure that [mentally ill] people don’t get slipped through the cracks,” Ryan said.
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The Speaker said the legislature, however, is currently trying to do a better job. Ryan said the Fix National Instant Criminal Background Check System bill, which is a part of a larger legislative effort in Senate right now, will fix the background check system.
With this bill, Ryan said he believes gaps in legislation will be fixed to help to make sure events like this do not happen again.
Regardless of future plans, Ryan said the recent shooting is an opportunity to come together as a country.
“This is a moment for all of us to step back and count our blessings,” Ryan said. “We need to think less about taking sides and fighting each other politically, and just pulling together. This house, and the whole country, stands with the Parkland community.”