As gun control advocates launch a renewed push for legislation following a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, Gov. Jan Brewer said she isn’t convinced that stricter legislation is needed.
“What happened up there at Sandy Hook was terrible. It was just absolutely horrific. And everybody’s heart is broken to the point where you can’t hardly get over it when it’s brought to your attention again or you’re just thinking about it privately as you’re driving along,” Brewer told reporters on Monday. “And it’s always about the right to bear arms. And I’m not sure if it’s something that needs to be addressed in that respect. You know, 9-11 was box cutters. There are evil people in our country, unfortunately, and in the world. And I don’t know how we get our arms around it.”
The Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killed 26 people, including 20 first-graders. Also killed were the shooter’s mother, who was shot at her home, and the shooter himself, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Calls for new gun control legislation arose in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, including proposals to bring back the federal assault weapons ban and prohibit extended magazines.
When asked whether the United States should ban assault weapons, Brewer answered only with silence. The governor said the numerous school shootings that have rocked the country show a need to make schools safer, but said she didn’t know what the solution is.
“I hope that people across the country can come together and figure out what it is to make that environment safer. But I will always believe that … there are evil people out there. And I don’t know what the solution is, how you’re ever going to stop it,” she said.
One solution, she said, may be improvements to the behavioral health system.
“Behavioral health would probably be something that we ought to look into and maybe have a stronger system, network to be able to address those issues before they get out of control or out of hand,” Brewer said. “I’m not a professional behavioral health person. I’m not a gun expert. I know what I believe it. But it is a bad situation. And I know everybody’s looking for an answer, and I don’t know what that answer is.”
Brewer’s comments on gun control echo statements she made after the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting in Tucson that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head while meeting with constituents outside a Tucson-area grocery store. The attack spurred calls from some Democrats, both in the Arizona Legislature and in Congress, to ban the type of extended magazines used in the shooting, but the push for new legislation fizzled out.
Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband, sharply criticized Brewer in November after the sentencing of shooter Jared Loughner. Kelly said Brewer and other politicians who refused to take action on gun control were “feckless in their leadership.”
Kelly renewed his calls for new gun control legislation after the Newtown shooting, as did Giffords’ successor, U.S. Rep. Ron Barber. Barber, who was serving as Giffords’ district director at the time, was seriously wounded in the shooting as well.
In an op-ed in The Arizona Republic on Sunday, Barber said no single law will prevent such tragedies from occurring. But some needed action is apparent, he said.
“I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms – but we must take action to deal with the easy availability of assault weapons and extended magazines,” wrote Barber, a Tucson Democrat.