Washington • Rep. John Curtis knows his guns.
Before being elected to Congress, he was a partner and executive at Action Target, a Provo company that helps design and manufacture shooting ranges. And he has studied ballistics enough to expertly track the trajectory of bullets.
So after the shooting at a Florida high school last week that killed 17 people, Curtis said enough was enough.
“Although I think offering condolences and prayers for the victims and their families is appropriate, I keep asking myself what I would expect from my elected leaders if that was one of my children or grandchildren killed,” the Utah Republican and former Provo mayor said in a statement.
“As a supporter and protector of the Second Amendment, I call on my friends and associates to show leadership and to not retreat. We understand firearms and are the most qualified to bring answers forward. We can and must provide solutions that both honor Second Amendment rights and protect our neighborhoods and schools.”
To be clear, Curtis isn’t backing legislation to add more gun regulations.
The freshman congressman says there are several steps the country can take to stop more mass shootings — three of the 10 deadliest shootings in America have occurred in the past five months — and he says the first move is to enforce the laws already on the books. He also advocates passing a law that penalizes government agencies that don’t report information needed for background checks.
Curtis backs legislation to help schools and communities identify warning signs of mental illness that could help deter shootings, as well as providing more resources for schools to make them safe like “we use to protect our celebrities, elected officials and airports.”
“We are sad, hurt, angry and frustrated,” Curtis said in the aftermath of the Florida incident. “So, let’s use this as our motivation to focus in on solutions. Not just feel-good solutions, but real answers that truly address the problem. To me, that means looking at mental illness, school security, warning signs, and, yes, even who can access firearms.”
The comments by Curtis, who was unavailable for an interview Tuesday, mirror those of other Republicans who say that passing gun-control laws is not an answer for gun-related crime, but that the focus should be on prohibiting those with mental illness from obtaining firearms.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that there shouldn’t be a ban on guns like an AR-15 — the style of firearm that shooter Nikolas Cruz is accused of using to mow down students and teachers last week — but an emphasis on preventing those who shouldn’t have access to guns from buying them.
“I think what should be is difficult for any person with any kind of criminal background history, domestic violence, mental instability, all of those things, regardless,” Lankford said. “I don’t care whether they’re buying a .22 pistol or an AR-15.”
President Donald Trump said Tuesday he signed a directive ordering Attorney General Jeff Sessions to craft regulations banning so-called “bump stocks” that can make semi-automatic weapons fire more rapidly.
“We can do more to protect our children,” Trump said. “We must do more to protect our children.”
Democrats say Republicans are offering a weak response to the scourge of mass shootings, and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York noted that Trump’s proposed budget actually cuts part of the background check system by 16 percent.
“In the midst of the national tragedy in Parkland, Fla., and on the heels of now 30 mass shootings that have taken place this year alone, it is downright dangerous that the president’s budget would seek to undermine the gun background check system,” Schumer said. “No child should have to live in fear of mass shootings, and no parent should have to worry about the fate of their child after school drop-off in the morning. Rather than working to strengthen already-lax gun safety laws, the White House is threatening to widen gaping holes in our protections by proposing to cut the NICS Background Check system by millions of dollars.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, touted legislation he’s co-sponsoring that he said would go a long way to curb gun crimes by addressing holes in the background check system that would “keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of felons, fugitives, drug addicts and other prohibited persons.”
Hatch said he’d introduce another bill in the coming weeks that would help invest in early intervention to stop school violence before it happens.
“Sen. Hatch is open to more conversations about possible solutions, particularly those focused on the underlying problems at the root of these horrific acts,” said Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock. “One of these proposals has broad support from everyone from the Senate’s staunchest supporters of gun control to the National Rifle Association, which is proof that we can find common ground to address these issues.”