ASAN Statement on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

On June 25, 2022, President Biden signed legislation intended to address gun violence. ASAN recognizes gun violence as a cause of needless and horrific suffering and death in our communities. We support congressional action to ensure that Americans, especially people with disabilities and multi-marginalized people, can go about our daily lives free from violence. However, we are concerned that many aspects of this legislation will harm the disability community, especially disabled people of color. 

In addition to addressing gun violence, this legislation includes several provisions related to mental health services. While investing in mental health services is critical, the decision to deal with gun violence and mental health in the same piece of legislation perpetuates harmful and inaccurate stereotypes about people with mental health and developmental disabilities. People with disabilities are at high risk of being victims, not perpetrators, of violence, including gun violence. For this reason, ASAN can never support legislators combining the unrelated problems of gun regulation and inadequate mental health services.

We are also disturbed by provisions that support school hardening, police presence in schools, and greater Department of Homeland Security involvement in schools. Too many autistic children, especially children of color, are subjected to the school-to-prison pipeline. More law enforcement involvement in schools will not keep students safe, but will result in more criminalization. This legislation fails to implement equity measures that might somewhat mitigate these harms. Increased police access to the mental health records of gun buyers also raise concerns about the civil rights of people with disabilities. Additional funding for state implementation of extreme risk protection orders without language specifying that states must apply these orders based on conduct, rather than diagnosis, may also lead to violations of the civil rights of people with disabilities.

We are frustrated that many aspects of this compromise legislation skirt the underlying causes of gun violence, fail to keep Americans safe, and worsen the stigma of mental health disabilities.  ASAN remains concerned about the effects of this legislation. We are disappointed that this legislation perpetuates stereotypes instead of addressing a serious societal problem. We call on Congress to take real steps to ensure that Americans live free from gun violence. 

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities. We work to empower autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us. Nothing About Us, Without Us!