As the United States mourns the victims of the latest massacre – 19 elementary school students and two teachers shot dead in Texas – Democratic governors are stepping up calls for more gun restrictions.
Many Republican governors emphasize another solution: more security in schools.
The division between the country’s governors reflects a guerrilla split that has halted action in Congress and many state capitals over how best to respond to the record high number of gun deaths in the United States. Political differences go deep into the country. tensions between life, liberty and constitutional rights enshrined in the nation’s founding documents.
Following the massacre Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uwald, Texas, the Associated Press asked U.S. governors if they believe their states have a responsibility to reduce mass shootings and gun violence, and if so, how to do so.
About half of the governor’s offices responded to the AP. There was an agreement that they were obliged to try to do something. Democrats and Republicans mentioned the need to invest in mental health services and training to try to help people potentially prone to an outbreak of violence.
But the community after that is all over.
Should people under the age of 21 be banned from buying semi-automatic rifles? Should I limit the ammunition supply to no more than 10 bullets?
Many Democratic governors said yes.
“If you are not serious about weapons, you are not serious about crime prevention. I think it’s more accurate today than ever before, “said Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut, where 20 students and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School ten years ago.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolfe has said he is in favor of limiting both bullet power and the purchase of semi-automatic weapons. On Friday, he held a rally with proponents of gun control in Philadelphia, condemning his Republican-led state legislature for failing to accept his gun proposal.
“They would rather be contemptuous in the arms production lobby than adopt common sense laws that would protect children from death,” Wolf said.
Among Republican governors who responded to the AP, only Vermont Gov. Phil Scott expressed support for such gun control efforts. In 2018, Scott signed a law limiting the capacity of firearms stores and raising the overall age for buying firearms to 21, except for teens 18 to 20 who are taking a firearms safety course.
Other Republican governors either ignored the AP’s questions about specific gun control measures or said they opposed them. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunley was a firm “no” in imposing restrictions or age restrictions that could violate constitutional rights.
“Tighter gun laws are not the answer to this problem – we need to focus our attention on the state of mental health in our communities,” the Dunleavy office said in a statement.
Ohio Gov. Mike Devine has said he will not support such gun control proposals because, in his view, they have no chance of passing in the state legislature run by the Republican Party. DeVine, a Republican, instead offered to spend a “significant amount of money” on efforts to protect schools from potential attacks. He did not specify what security would entail.
Republican governors were more likely to support efforts to strengthen security in schools. The AP asked about proposals to arm teachers and staff with firearms, add guards or provide schools with things like metal detectors and fences.
Speaking at a National Rifle Association convention in Houston on Friday, Republican Gov. Christie Noem of South Dakota condemned calls for gun control as “garbage” and took greater security measures at the school.
“Why do we protect our banks, our shops and celebrities with armed protection, but not our children? Aren’t they really our greatest treasure? ” Said Noah.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa also outlined various possible security measures at the school, speaking to reporters Friday.
“It’s looking for ways to harden schools, it’s about talking about public resources,” she said, later adding, “Maybe the only entrance to the school system and checking teacher training.”
Rejecting proposals to restrict gun ownership, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said the solution was to “focus on individual issues” and continue to provide grants to schools to improve security.
“You can call them hardening when kids are in their class,” said Holcomb, a Republican.
Some Democrats also support funding for specially trained police, known as school resource officers, or improving the security of buildings. But none of the Democrat governors who answered AP questions supported the armament of teachers or staff to deter or stop the attacks.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat who is a former teacher, school overseer and head of state education, said he was concerned that teachers’ weapons would make schools more dangerous. Placing additional security guards or police in each school building can be both impractical and counterproductive, he said.
“There are not enough people to do that,” Evers said, “and I’m not sure we want to turn our schools into armed camps.”
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