Background Checks for Guns ‘Don’t Solve the Problem,’ This House Republican Says

Fresh off recess, House Republicans spent little time back in Washington before denouncing President Obama’s latest executive actions to restrict gun ownership.

“Anyone who watched the president yesterday had to be struck by the unbelievably partisan nature of his remarks,” Rep. Andy Harris said Wednesday. “It’s not like he wanted us to solve this problem as Americans; he wanted to solve it as Democrats versus Republicans.”

Harris, Maryland’s sole Republican congressman, faulted the president for making a “straw man” attempt to unilaterally expand federal background checks in gun sales through heightened firearm licensing requirements and more FBI staff to process applications.

Speaking during a monthly “Conversations With Conservatives” panel on Capitol Hill, Harris noted that despite Maryland’s stringent gun laws, including a seven-day waiting period following a background check, 2015 marked Baltimore’s deadliest year relative to its population.

The city saw the highest per capita homicide rate in its history, with 344 murders. Guns were used in nearly 90 percent of them.

“Background checks don’t solve the problem—they don’t solve it in Maryland, they don’t solve it in Chicago, and they didn’t solve it in Washington, D.C.,” Harris said.

Instead, he said, the Obama administration should work with Congress to fix the nation’s “broken” mental health system.

Obama’s executive actions, detailed in an emotional speech Tuesday at the White House, include a $500 million request to increase access to mental health care.

But Harris said the White House’s approach just “throws more money” at the problem, rather than structurally reforming how mental health care is delivered in the U.S.

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., who worked as a psychologist for three decades before coming to Washington, is moving a bill to overhaul the mental health care system. Murphy criticized the president for legislating from the executive branch, and said Obama should instead support the reforms in his legislation.

“There is a big difference between funding ‘mental health programs’ and enacting reforms addressing serious mental illness,” Murphy said Tuesday in a formal statement. “More money into our disastrously failed and antiquated system will only result in more lives lost.”

Harris said if Obama truly wanted to solve the nation’s mental health issues, he would encourage Democrats to sign on to Murphy’s bill.

“I would hope the president doesn’t just want this to be a soap box issue and actually wants to solve the problem,” Harris said.

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