Sen. Todd Young: Legislation alone won’t stop school shootings, but better mental-health screenings would help

Todd Young

Indiana Sen. Todd Young believes it’s appropriate the nation is re-examining how best to improve public safety in the week of this week’s shooting at a Florida High School that left 17 people dead. But while the second-year Republican supports increased funding for mental health programs and improved mental-health screenings during firearms background checks, he remains skeptical about calls for additional gun-control laws.

“No one who has a mental illness should have a firearm. Period,” Young said during an interview for the latest installment of The News-Sentinel’s cable TV public-affairs program, the Fort Report. “It’s right and necessary to look at public policy to see if we’re where we need to be . . . (and) I have four young kids. But we need to show a measure of humility about what can be accomplished just through legislation.”

Even though President Donald Trump has suggested arming some teachers, Young said he “wouldn’t start there.” Instead, he supports improved law enforcement and rigorous safety protocols such as are in place in Indiana, so students and teachers know how to respond during an emergency. “There was a (law enforcement) systems breakdown in Florida, and it’s (Congress’) job to make sure those systems work,” he said.

Young has been criticized in some quarters for accepting nearly $3 million from the National Rifle Association during his congressional career, but said that support simply reflects his support for Americans’ fundamental right to bear arms and his refusal to embrace speedy or simplistic solutions to complex problems.

Despite the failure so far to pass any major legislation dealing with immigration or border security — “I hope people put partisan blinders aside and take another run at it,” he said — Young rejected the notion Republicans have failed to exploit their control of Congress and the White House.

In addition to the recent tax-reform bill, which he said is already benefiting individuals and will generate more tax revenue while making the country more competitive, Young pointed to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and 13 appeals court judges, along with regulatory reform and elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s so-called “individual mandate.”

“We’ve gotten an incredible amount done,” Young insisted. And although he doesn’t believe Republicans should invoke the “nuclear option” that would allow passage of legislation with a simple majority in the Senate instead of 60 votes, he does support a review of rules that might allow presidential appointees to be approved by a simple majority.

Young acknowledged the national debt has continued to soar even under supposedly prudent Republicans, but said he believes restructuring of Social Security and other entitlement programs would help. “If one looks for perfection, you shouldn’t go into politics,” he said. “Progress requires principled compromise.”

Young also touted his “Fair Shot” agenda, which he said seeks to identify and eliminate barriers to success.

The Fort Report can be seen Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on Comcast Cable Channel 27 and FiOS Channel 57 and will be available and starting Sunday at