BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – The federal government and Louisiana officials are ramping up efforts to reduce gun violence and increase access to mental healthcare.

The U.S. Department of Justice is helping by providing Louisiana with $4,501,897, and some of these funds will be used to keep guns away from people deemed likely to harm themselves or others.

Statistics show guns are falling into the wrong hands

In recent years, statistics indicate that many people in Louisiana who should not be able to obtain firearms have gained access to these weapons and used them for illegal purposes.

Open Data BR indicated that in 2021 a total of 126 people in Baton Rouge were charged with armed robbery and use of a firearm. The most recent Annual Report from the East Baton Rouge Coroner’s Office revealed that a total of 171 homicides and 57 suicides occurred that same year. Some of these deaths involved firearms.

Earlier this week, new data from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention stated that Louisiana has the second-highest gun death rate in the nation.

The plan to take guns away from dangerous people

The over four million dollars Louisiana officials received from the Department of Justice will support aspects of the Biden Administration’s Byrne State Crisis Intervention Program, or Byrne SCIP, as well as the President’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

White House representative, Stephanie Feldman spoke with BRProud about the Safer Communities Act and explained that it was designed to keep guns out of dangerous hands and reduce gun violence across the state.

Feldman said, “When Louisiana applied for this funding, they pointed out that 65 percent of domestic violence victims in Louisiana are killed by a firearm.”

She added, “Louisiana is going to be using some of the funding through the grant that I’m talking about today to strengthen domestic violence supports in the state and domestic protection programs, and make sure that they are deescalating violence in potential domestic abuser situations.”

Federal officials are encouraging states to reduce gun violence by taking steps to strengthen background check systems and enact red flag laws, which are also known as extreme risk protection orders.

This is where the Byrne SCIP comes into play. The program supports red flag laws that allow either law enforcement officers or relatives of a person who appears likely to do harm to themselves and or others to petition the court and ask the court to deem this person a danger to themselves or others.

Should the court make such a determination, it would remove the individual’s access to firearms. Federal officials believe that implementing such red flag laws would be a clear step forward in reducing gun violence.

Expanding access to mental health care

Another facet of the program is the assistance it will provide to people in need of mental health care, particularly, to children.

This remains an ongoing concern for capital area leaders. At the start of 2023, law enforcement officials gathered for January’s Tenth Annual ICRIME summit to discuss safety in schools and related topics. During the meeting, one official pointed out that many Baton Rouge schools suffer from a lack of professional help for youths suffering from trauma.

The Safer Communities Act aims to tackle this head-on.

Feldman explained how, saying, “One of the key pieces of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is funding for mental help in our schools, hiring more mental health professionals to be in our schools to help students, especially students who are experiencing the trauma of gun violence.”

Local and federal officials hope the funding and guidance from the federal government’s Safer Communities Act will lead to a decrease in gun-related crimes in Baton Rouge.

Louisiana is one of 49 states and territories to request and successfully secure this federal funding to reduce gun violence.