Governors disagree over gun control and school safety efforts

As the US mourns the victims of its recent mass shooting – 19 elementary school students and two teachers shot dead in Texas Democratic governors are stepping up calls for stronger gun restrictions.

Many Republican governors are emphasizing a different solution: more safety in schools.

The divide among the nation’s governors reflects a partisan division that exists disabled action in Congress and in many state capitals about how best to respond to a Record number of gun deaths in the United States. The political differences go deep into the country’s roots, highlighting the tensions between life, liberty and the constitutional rights enshrined in the nation’s founding documents.


Following Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, The Associated Press asked US governors if they believe their states have an obligation to reduce mass shootings and gun violence, and if so, how to do so do is.

About half of the governor’s offices responded to the AP. It was agreed that they had a responsibility to do something. Democrats and Republicans alike mentioned the need to invest in mental health services and training to help people potentially vulnerable to violence.

But the common ground generally ended after that.

Should people under the age of 21 be banned from buying semi-automatic guns? Should ammo magazines be limited to no more than 10 bullets?

Many Democratic governors said yes.

“If you don’t take guns seriously, you don’t take crime prevention seriously. I think that’s truer today than ever,” 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 caps on both bullet capacity and purchases of semi-automatic weapons. He rallied with gun control advocates in Philadelphia on Friday as he denounced his state’s Republican-led Legislature for failing to pass his gun proposals.

“They would rather cowardly give in to the gun lobbies than pass sane legislation that would save children from dying,” Wolf said.

Among the Republican governors who responded to the AP, only Vermont Gov. Phil Scott expressed support for such gun control efforts. Scott signed into law in 2018 limiting the capacity of gun magazines and raising the general gun purchase age to 21, except for 18-20 year olds who take a gun safety course.

Other Republican governors either dodged or said they opposed the AP’s questions about specific gun control measures. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has been a resounding “no” to setting bullet boundaries or age restrictions that might violate constitutional rights.


“Tougher gun laws are not the solution to this problem — we need to turn our attention to the state of mental health in our communities,” Dunleavy’s office said in an email.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he would not support such gun control proposals because he believes they have no chance of getting through the state’s GOP-led legislature. DeWine, a Republican, instead suggested spending “a significant amount of money” on efforts to ensure schools are protected from possible attacks. He did not spell out exactly what that security would entail.

Republican governors have been more supportive of efforts to strengthen school safety. The AP asked for suggestions of arming teachers and staff with guns, using security guards, or securing schools with things like metal detectors and fences.


Though her office didn’t respond to the AP poll, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota denounced calls for gun control as “garbage” and advocated greater safety measures for schools during a speech Friday before the National Rifle Association convention in Houston.

“Why do we protect our banks, our businesses and celebrities with armed guards, but not our children? Aren’t they really our greatest treasure?” said Noem.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa also laid out a number of possible security measures for the school when speaking to reporters Friday.

“It’s looking at ways to empower schools, it’s talking about having conversations about government resource officials,” she said, later adding, “Maybe a single entry point into the school system and making sure educators are trained.”

While Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb opposed proposals to limit gun ownership, he said the solution is to “focus on the individual problems” and continue to give schools grants for safety improvements.


“You could call it hardening when kids are in their classroom,” said Holcomb, a Republican.

Some Democrats also support funding specially trained police officers, known as school resource officers, or improving building security. 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 was a former teacher, principal and head of state education — said he was concerned arming teachers would make schools more dangerous. Posting additional security guards or police officers in each school building could be both impractical and counterproductive, he said.

“There aren’t enough people for that,” Evers said, “and I’m not sure we want to turn our educational institutions into armed camps.”


Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; Tom Davies in Indianapolis; Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut; David Pitt in Des Moines, Iowa; Andrew Welsh-Huggins of Columbus, Ohio; and AP Statehouse reporters from across the US contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Governors disagree over gun control and school safety efforts

Sarah Y. Kim

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