New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is calling on the federal government to invest in local resources and mental health services in the wake of the nation’s worst mass shooting.
Landrieu, speaking to a group of health care reporters gathered in New Orleans on Wednesday, said he sees gun violence as a “public health threat” that has to be addressed “on the front end.”
“It’s as much a public health threat as it is a public safety threat,” he said.
Armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a handgun, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, an American-born Muslim, killed 49 people and wounded more than 50 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday. Mateen, who called 911 to proclaim his allegiance to the Islamic State group during the rampage, was killed after an hours-long standoff with law enforcement.
Landrieu said that local police and government services are key to addressing deadly attacks like the one that took place in Orlando and that more federal dollars should be invested in local anti-terrorism efforts.
“The world is changing dramatically,” he said. “Reality is forcing us to change the lens with which we see things.”
“ISIS’ sick propaganda inspires lone wolf attackers and, like it or not, the 900,000 local and state police officers are now the tip of the spear in the domestic fight against terrorism and violence,” he wrote.
Landrieu said he thinks that the federal government should invest in mental health and substance abuse treatment and in “people on the ground” like the local officers who have to respond to shootings.
“Congress is silent, or what they say is, ‘That is local,’ ” Landrieu said. “Is what happened in Orlando local?”
The Orlando attack has touched off another debate over the best way to combat so-called “lone wolf” terrorists and over whether tighter gun regulations should be implemented.
But Landrieu said he’s frustrated that the debate has focused so heavily on gun control versus terrorism.
“When everyone gets stuck now on ‘Was it a terrorist attack or was it about the AR-15?’ — it misses the argument,” Landrieu said. “We have to stop letting ideology get in the way of common sense.”
Earlier this year, Landrieu gave an emotional speech at Tulane University about the city’s murder rate and high-profile shootings.
He said the federal government should be a stronger partner in combating violent crime by investing in domestic security as aggressively as it has overseas.
Specifically, he’s called for more funding for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which provides money to local law enforcement; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for local anti-terrorism capabilities; and the FBI’s National Terrorism Task Forces.