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Gov. Herbert on guns: ‘A lot of things we can be doing and should be doing’

(Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo) Gov. Gary R. Herbert speaks as Sen. Curt Bramble and industry leaders formally announce the state's pathbreaking net metering agreement for residents with solar panels and discussed what the outcome means for Utah's energy future, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert fielded several questions about gun control and gun safety in his monthly KUED news conference Wednesday. Here’s some of his question-and-answer with reporters:

Question: We haven’t had any mass shootings in schools in Utah. What are you doing to try to keep that the case?

“It’s a tragedy wherever we have them and it’s a like a ticking time bomb. You wonder and worry is something going to happen in our own backyard. …

“What we’re doing is making sure that all of our schools are prepared. There are laws on the books that require our superintendents and our principals to make sure that access to our schools is controlled, and we need to make sure that that’s in fact the case. I don’t believe that probably is the case in all instances, so there’s just a single point of access where we can control to help screen people that come on the campus. …

“I think we need to make sure that drills are taking place. We have an active shooter drill where schools should be — just like a fire drill — go through the process of lockdown and what needs to be done to protect the students. So we want to make sure that what we have in place is actually being prepared for in practice.”

“There are laws on the books that require our superintendents and our principals to make sure that access to our schools is controlled, and we need to make sure that that’s in fact the case. I don’t believe that probably is the case in all instances.”

“Secondly, I think it’s important for us to talk about what is happening in society that causes our young people — these tend to be younger people that go on this rampage and have a desire without any compunction to kill people. Is that part of our family upbringing or a breakdown of family? The lack of fathers in the home? Those are frank and open discussions we ought to have. …

“We ought to be concerned, I think, about violence that we just seem to tolerate, when it comes out of Hollywood. We in fact have these Rambo movies and slasher movies that I think tend to desensitize we as the people, that this violence is just OK, it’s just part of life, when it’s really not.”

“We ought to be concerned, I think, about violence that we just seem totolerate, when it comes out of Hollywood. We in fact have these Rambomovies and slasher movies that I think tend to desensitize we as thepeople, that this violence is just OK, it’s just part of life, when it’sreally not.”

The governor spoke about how he was trained in the military to be desensitized to shooting and killing.

“I think our virtual reality games does that same thing to our young people. We ought to be concerned about that and have a discussion. Are we in fact desensitizing our young people to violence, and [that] makes it a little easier for people to go off. …

“Certainly mental health issues and background checks are all part and parcel of what we ought to be doing to prevent violence in our schools or other places where the public assembles, too. And so it’s a complex issue. There’s no easy answer but we ought to have that discussion.”

Q: Should Utah ban assault rifles?

“I don’t know where you decide what’s an assault rifle and what’s not, how many rounds, [what’s an] automatic weapon. We already have laws that say you cannot have automatic weapons, fully automatic.”

The governor said President Trump’s call to ban “bump stocks,” which allow semi-automatic weapons to be repeat-fired almost as quickly as fully automatic weapons, was “appropriate.”

“Those are discussions that we need to have and I think people are saying do something. There’s frustration out there because these incidents keep happening. We want to make sure that what we do actually has a positive result. It’s not just a feel-good thing where we think we’ve done something where in fact we have not. But I think Utah is actually in a pretty good place when it comes to Second Amendment rights and what we’re gonna do and what should we be already doing with our schools to make sure they’re safe environments for our young people.”

The governor was asked about gun deaths in the home and suicide prevention efforts.

“I think suicide and suicide prevention — and that kind of dovetails with violence —is really a complex issue. … We have social isolation, we have too much bullying that takes place in schools and other environments. We ought to be concerned about that. We ought to make sure that we hug our children and tell them we love them. We actually have young people who say ‘I’ve never been told anybody loves me’ and they’re in junior high school. How does that happen? …

“There’s a lot of things we can be doing and should be doing. Certainly gun locks. Again, one of the things that came out of our task force with suicide prevention, working with some of our gun right advocates. We’ve placed over 40,000 gun locks in the homes now because we know that it’s easy for a young person that despondent, depressed, to grab your gun and use it against themselves. So having guns locks in place and having [weapons] in secure facilities is an important aspect of being smart about how we have guns in our lives and our homes. …

“It’s spawning the discussion. We ought not to be afraid of the discussion. We ought to come together. We have different points of view on Second Amendment rights and what the parameters should be. But let’s address it head on. ‘Let’s reason together,’ saith Isaiah, and see if we can’t come up with in fact a solution that we all feel good about and I think make it better. And I think we’re doing that right now. I think we’ll do more going forwards.”

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