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Arkansas governor says bipartisan response needed to address mass shootings

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during an appearance on Face the Nation that he is against banning AR-15s. He said the focus should be the people who commit acts of violence.
Face the Nation
CBS News
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during an appearance Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation that he is against banning assault weapons, arguing the focus should be people who commit acts of violence.

After last week's shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers, Gov. Asa Hutchinson appeared Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation to speak about efforts to prevent mass shootings in the future.

Hutchinson, who was a part of the National Rifle Association’s school safety task force in 2013, says one of the takeaways from the shooting in Uvalde is the need for improved training of security personnel.

“You have to have multiple layers of security to protect the children. There’s also the factor of human error. That’s a reason why you’ve got to have different layers; you can’t just rely on one technique,” Hutchinson said. “School safety is something that we all have to focus on coming out of the incredible tragedy that we see in Uvalde.”

Last week, Hutchinson announced he would like to meet with the Arkansas School Safety Commission for a reassessment of its 124-page report. As a response to the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018, Hutchinson created the commission through an executive order.

“I will be working with Commission Chair Dr. Cheryl May and Secretary of Education Johnny Key to reinforce those recommendations to ensure school districts are as safe as they can be,” Hutchinson said in a written statement on Wednesday. “There is nothing more important than the safety of our children.”

As the chairman of the National Governors Association, Hutchinson says he has reached out to Republican and Democratic governors about bipartisan solutions. Hutchinson said one of the main things lawmakers need to look at is flagging purchases of high capacity ammunition magazines.

“Whenever you're looking at the alarm bells, whenever you're looking at these very odd purchases, when somebody just turned 18, something has to trigger an alarm bell. Somebody says let's alert law enforcement to this. This is a concern. I do think we need to look at those types of triggers that can alert law enforcement,” Hutchinson said.

The governor said he is against banning assault weapons like the AR-15, suggesting that could cause more harm than good.

“In Arkansas, for example, as you pointed out, the long rifles, we distinguish those and those you can acquire at 18. Because we hunt with those, it's a culture that we start when we're 14 or 15 here in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said. “So that's an important part of it and it's a step to go to the AR-15s and how you draft laws that would distinguish those. That'll be a part of the discussion. I don't think that's a solution and we shouldn't focus on that.”

Hutchinson applauded U.S. senators who are coming together to find bipartisan solutions to try and prevent mass shootings. He said he would like governors take a similar approach.

U.S Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, who is leading bipartisan efforts to find gun safety measures told Face the Nation he is seeing more Republican lawmakers coming to the table to talk about this.

"Republicans are not willing to support everything that I support, like banning assault weapons, but I really think that we could pass something that saves lives and breaks this logjam that we've had for 30 years," Murphy said

According to the Associated Press, Arkansas' U.S senators Tom Cotton and John Boozman helped block a domestic terrorism bill that would have opened debate on questions surrounding hate crimes and gun safety. The senators voted along party lines to block debate on the proposal.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.
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