In November 2021, Washington, D.C., expanded a program to direct emergency mental health calls to its Community Response Team, a service under the Department of Behavioral Health staffed by clinicians and peer support specialists. The idea, The Appeal reports, came amid a national reckoning with police violence, and it was intended to give 911 dispatchers the option to send teams of mental health workers to respond to people in crisis, instead of armed officers.
The effort failed, according to a new lawsuit by the ACLU, filed on behalf of local nonprofit Bread for the City. Per the complaint, less than 1 percent of 911 calls for a mental health crisis are handled by a mental health specialist, and because the Community Response Team has been underfunded and understaffed, it can take hours for them to arrive at emergencies — leaving police, who receive little training in responding to mental health crises, as the first responders.
When people have physical emergencies, the city sends trained medical providers. Using armed police officers as the “default” responders to mental health emergencies, the advocacy group argues, thus constitutes a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. “If I had a heart attack, I would want someone to call a trained medic, not a police officer. In the same way, if I had a mental health crisis, I would want a mental health provider to provide appropriate care,” Michael Perloff, a staff attorney at D.C. ACLU, told DCist in a statement. “But that’s not what happens with mental health emergencies in the District of Columbia.”
What to Know Today
Americans bought an estimated 1.2 million guns in June 2023, according to an analysis of FBI data. [The Trace]
As the Biden administration wages a legal battle to crack down on ghost guns, communities across the country are suffering from a frightening phenomenon: Teenagers have discovered that they can easily acquire components to build an untraceable firearm, and they’ve been shooting homemade guns with alarming frequency. [The Washington Post]
A Dallas Police officer had a decade-long history of violent behavior and excessive force, but he wasn’t fired until he shot and killed a woman while on duty. Over the years, the department had repeatedly cleared him of wrongdoing — and his case reveals deep flaws in how the law enforcement agency investigates the officers in its ranks. [The Dallas Morning News]
Gun Owners of America, a gun rights group, is suing the ATF over its “zero-tolerance” policy on lawbreaking firearms dealers, an approach the agency implemented after the Biden administration ordered it to take a stricter tack during inspections. [Washington Examiner] Context: Last year, after the Biden administration issued the new guidance, the ATF revoked gun store licenses at a higher rate than any year since 2006 — but the agency conducted far fewer inspections than in previous years, and its inspections program has long been lenient and conciliatory toward gun dealers.
Ahead of the Tennessee Legislature’s upcoming special session, called by Republican Governor Bill Lee to consider an extreme risk protection order bill, a key state senator is working with the NRA on alternative gun legislation that focuses on mental health. Last month, Lee’s office accused the gun rights group of wanting to use involuntary commitment “to round up mentally ill people and deprive them of other liberties,” according to documents obtained via public records request. [Tennessee Lookout/Associated Press]
Philly Truce, an anti-violence nonprofit, facilitates volunteer-led “Peace Patrol” walks through neighborhoods where gun violence often strikes. Their goal isn’t to intervene in conflicts, but rather to serve as a deterrent and show community members that others care about their safety. [The Philadelphia Inquirer] Context: Philly Truce is one of many organizations across Philadelphia dedicated to helping those affected by gun violence. Find more at Up the Block.
The D.C. Council approved an emergency public safety bill to address the spike in violent crime and homicides the city’s experienced so far this year. The resolution established a new criminal offense for firing a gun in public and gives courts more discretion to hold people with past violent offenses in pretrial detention if they’re suspected of committing a new violent crime. [DCist]
The Indianapolis City-County Council approved a gun violence prevention proposal that would ban assault weapons, permitless carry, and concealed carry, as well as raise the minimum age to buy a firearm to 21 — but it can’t take effect unless Indiana repeals a law preventing local governments from creating their own gun regulations. [Indiana Public Radio]
The Supreme Court agreed to hear a Second Amendment case with the potential to roll back its landmark Bruen decision. Why have gun rights groups been so quiet about it? [USA TODAY]
1 in 5 — the approximate proportion of people who were experiencing a mental health crisis when they were shot and killed by police, since 2015. [The Washington Post]