Governors diverge on gun control, school security efforts

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As the U.S. mourns the victims of its latest mass shooting — 19 elementary school students and two teachers gunned down in Texas — Democratic governors are amplifying their calls for greater restrictions on guns.

Many Republican governors are emphasizing a different solution: more security at schools.

The divide among the nation’s governors mirrors a partisan split that has stymied action in Congress and many state capitols over how best to respond to a record-high number of gun-related deaths in the U.S.

The political differences tap deep into the country’s roots, highlighting the tensions between life, liberty and the constitutional rights spelled out in the nation’s founding documents.

After the massacre Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, The Associated Press asked governors across the U.S. whether they believed their states have an obligation to reduce mass shootings and violence committed with guns and, if so, how to do that.

About half the governor’s offices responded to the AP. There was agreement that they had a responsibility to try to do something.

Democrats and Republicans alike mentioned the need to invest in mental health services and training to try to help people potentially prone to a violent outburst.

But the commonality generally ended after that.

Should people younger than 21 be prohibited from buying semi-automatic guns? Should ammunition magazines be limited to no more than 10 bullets?

Many Democratic governors said “yes.”

“If you’re not serious about guns, you’re not serious about crime prevention. I think that’s more true today than ever before,” said Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut, where 20 students and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School a decade ago.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he supports limits on both bullet capacities and the purchase of semi-automatic weapons. He rallied Friday with gun-control advocates in Philadelphia while denouncing his state’s Republican-led Legislature for not passing his gun proposals.

“They would rather cave in cravenly to the gun manufacturing lobby than pass commonsense legislation that would keep children from dying,” Wolf said.

Among Republican governors who responded to the AP, only Vermont Gov. Phil Scott expressed support for such gun control efforts. Scott signed a law in 2018 limiting the capacity of firearm magazines and raising the general age to buy guns to 21, with exceptions for 18- to 20-year-olds who undergo a firearms safety course.

Other Republican governors either sidestepped the AP’s questions about specific gun-control measures or said they opposed them.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy was a firm “no” on setting bullet limits or age restrictions that could infringe on constitutional rights.

“Stricter gun laws are not a solution to this problem – we must focus our attention on the status of mental health in our communities,” Dunleavy’s office said in email.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he would not endorse such gun-control proposals, because he believes they have no chance of passing in the state’s GOP-led Legislature. DeWine, a Republican, instead proposed spending “a significant amount of money” on efforts to ensure schools are protected against potential attacks. He didn’t outline exactly what that security would entail.

Republican governors were more likely to support efforts to strengthen security at schools. The AP asked about proposals to arm teachers and staff with firearms, add security guards or secure schools with such things as metal detectors and fencing.

During a speech Friday to the National Rifle Association convention in Houston, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota denounced calls for gun-control as “garbage” and embraced greater school security measures

“Why do we protect our banks, our stores and celebrities with armed guards but not our children? Are they not truly our greatest treasure?” Noem said.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa also laid out a variety of potential school safety steps while talking to reporters Friday.

“It’s looking for ways to harden schools, it’s talking about having conversations about state resource officers,” she said, later adding: “Maybe a single entrance into the school system and making sure educators are trained.”

While dismissing proposals to restrict gun ownership, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said the solution is to “focus on the individual problems” and to continue providing grants to schools for security upgrades.

“You might call it hardening them when children are in their classroom,” said Holcomb, a Republican.

Some Democrats also support funding for specially trained police known as school resources officers, or improving the security of buildings. But none of the Democratic governors who responded to the AP’s questions supported arming teachers or staff to deter or stop attacks.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers — a Democrat who is a former teacher, school superintendent and state education chief — said he’s concerned that arming teachers would make schools more dangerous.

Placing additional security guards or police at every school building could be both impractical and counterproductive, he said.

“There’s not enough people to do it,” Evers said, “and I’m not sure we want to turn our learning institutions into armed camps.”

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12 thoughts on “Governors diverge on gun control, school security efforts

  1. Ban the sale of body armor. There is no constitutional right to purchase or own it. There is no need for it when hunting or defending yourself. Anyone wanting to have it should be considered a potential threat to society.

    1. Of course not. But it delays the ability for the good guy with the gun to take out the bad guy with the gun often leading to more of our grandchildren dying when these tragic events occur. We need to be open to incremental improvements.

    2. Tim D. ~ Notice that Murray and Joe failed to address my core argument? Of course they couldn’t rebut it because it contain basic truths. And they can’t handle the truth.

    3. Brent, what “core” argument? Your exalted opinion presented as proof? That’s cheap, even by your standards.

  2. Harden schools? That is admirable, but that is setting the goal post at the 49 yard line. It ignores the 20,000+ a year gun suicides in the US and the 2000+ accidental gun deaths in the US, and the 25,000 other gun deaths a year in the US.

    How much death do we have to see before we try something sensible?

  3. Did anybody notice that the Uvalde school system had spent some $600,000 to “harden” the schools last year. Been there, done that. Guess what, unsecured schools is not the root problem.

    1. Dan M. – It appears a big problem was the large number of “good guys with guns” who did nothing. So much for the tripe that the guns-before-children NRA cult always proposes.

  4. I have to say that “hardening” the schools in Uvalde clearly did not address the practice of propping open the door for teachers to take classes out to recess! That is, apparently, how the gunman got in. If he came to a locked door, he probably would have run to the next place for cover. If he had used a shotgun, would we ban those? What if he hacked the students to death? Do we ban knives over 3 inches? It is true that we guard our precious lawmakers in their place of work, state or federal. We also have guards and metal detectors at Colts and Pacer games. We just sent $40B to Ukraine. Perhaps, that money would have went a long way to pay for resource officers at each building and monitoring measures to make sure the ‘single entry point’ at each school is maintained.

  5. Why has this type of violence increased so much in the past 10 years? What elements do the perpetrators share, beyond just the tools they use for their acts? When do we switch the focus to the people who do these atrocious acts, examine their backgrounds, and look at the common elements that propel them to act out such an atrocity?
    Are the publicity and the chance for short moment of glory somehow involvled?
    In Uvalde, where did this 18-19 year old get enough money to buy all the equipment?

  6. In short – something has to change and it isn’t “hardening of schools”. Many of our schools have already done most of the viable suggestions in that area.

    One idea is to remove any political members that have received more than $10,000 from a related industry or related PAC from being allowed to vote or from being counted as part of the total when voting on a topic. They can’t vote and they don’t count towards the total number when determining the majority or 2/3rd bars on a vote. This would mean that Senators like Braun and Young could not vote on anything related to Guns due to the millions they received from the NRA. The would of politics would change with such a rule because suddenly the only ones voting are the ones that don’t have a vested interest or conflict of interest.