ICYMI: Burgess and Ferguson Op-ed: “A BIG solution to gun violence”



Washington, D.C. – Today, in the Washington Examiner, Congressman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) and Congressman Drew Ferguson, D.M.D. (R-GA) penned an op-ed providing a bipartisan legislative response to some of the recent mass shootings. Their legislation, the Behavioral Intervention Guidelines Act of 2021, or simply the BIG Act, received strong bipartisan support in the House and is waiting for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to bring it up for a vote in the Senate. If enacted, the BIG Act will equip schools and communities with the tools they need to ensure the safety and health of each student, and hopefully prevent future mass shootings.

A BIG solution to gun violence
By Congressman Michael C. Burgess, M.D.
and Congressman Drew Ferguson, D.M.D.
The Washington Examiner
June 9, 2022
Read the full op-ed here.

Our hearts are broken over the recent string of mass shootings. While debates stream across America, many have doubts that Congress will deliver any meaningful change. It feels like our nation is on a treadmill, with the same arguments playing over and over after every tragedy. It is time to get off the wheel and look at proven solutions that equip communities and schools with the tools they need to prevent the next trauma.

One such tool is the Behavioral Intervention Guidelines Act, or simply the BIG Act. If enacted, this bill would empower schools and local communities with the resources necessary to ensure the safety and health of each student. It would do so by developing best practices for schools to establish behavioral health intervention teams, which can use evidence-based tactics to identify students who are at risk of harming themselves or others and address their mental and behavioral health needs.

The legislation was conceived through innovative programs at two public universities: Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia, and Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. Columbus State developed its program to help students get the support needed before a problem develops into a crisis.

Columbus State shared with us a success story about a top-performing student whose grades had suddenly and inexplicably slipped, and he had been starting fights. What changed with the student? Looking at the bigger picture instead of isolated events, the university realized this student was about to be unable to register for the next quarter because he was behind on tuition payments. After identifying the problem, they were able to talk with the student and learn that he had been working two jobs to earn money since his father lost his job and did not have the resources to help him finish. Think what could've happened if Columbus State had not intervened. This student could have reached a point in a spiral where he would never have finished college, and even worse, he could have hurt himself or others.

The key element to the BIG Act is being nonprescriptive. It is simply saying to congregate all of the best practices and then figure out the system that best fits the circumstances. It allows local communities, local school systems, and educational institutions to develop their own models without interference from the federal government.

Congress must enact this empowering legislation. It has already passed the House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support and is waiting for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to bring it to the Senate floor. The BIG Act can help prevent the next tragedy by giving students the resources necessary to stay on track and be successful.