The Washington Times - September 19, 2013, 09:44AM

Rep. Ron Barber, the Arizona Democrat wounded in the 2011 Tucson shooting that also wounded his then-boss, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, is pushing to educate first responders, teachers and others on how to recognize symptoms of mental health issues and get help for those who may be suffering from mental health problems.

“If we can inform them and make them aware of what they’re seeing … I believe we can minimize the dangerous activities of people who go over the edge,” he said on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown With Chuck Todd” on Thursday.

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The Mental Health First Aid Act would secure federal funding to increase awareness efforts and teach people such as first responders and teachers how to de-escalate a conflict. Mr. Barber introduced the act in January.

Mr. Barber was serving as the district director for Mrs. Giffords when he was shot twice in the January 2011 incident that killed six and wounded 13. He later took over her seat in Congress. Jared Loughner pleaded guilty to the shooting after months of treatment for schizophrenia and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Mr. Barber said that it is important to close loopholes in background checks that allow the mentally ill to purchase guns, but that getting mental health legislation passed is a good first step.

“I hope we can get the mental health bill through. I also hope we can get the background checks expanded,” he said.