LINCOLN — Governors of Nebraska and Iowa said Monday that there are no easy answers to preventing atrocities like the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.
But Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said the root causes that drive someone to commit such unspeakable violence are one place to start, rather than stricter gun control.
Heineman, whose wife, Sally Ganem, is a former elementary school principal, said they spent much of the weekend talking about the slaughter of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn.
“This is just an evil tragedy,” Heineman said in a conference call with reporters. “It's unthinkable, it's unspeakable.” But when asked about gun control, the Republican governor said all the facts need to be gathered first.
When asked about added security at schools, Heineman pointed out that the Newtown schools had done “more than most” by locking their front door and requiring visitors to ring a doorbell, and be screened by school personnel, before being admitted.
“I'm not sure what more that school could have done,” Heineman said. “Someone who's determined, it's very hard to stop them.”
Branstad urged Iowa school officials to review a statewide safety advisory plan adopted last year but stopped short of recommending stricter gun control measures or arming teachers and principals.
Branstad did suggest that county sheriffs, who issue firearm licenses in Iowa, withhold them from people with a known history of mental illness.
“Trying to deal with the root causes (of violence), be it bullying or mental health issues, are important aspects that we need to explore,” Branstad said.
Heineman said such shootings raise “complex” issues, such as broken family structures, mental illness, television violence and the judicial system.
State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, chairman of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, said he plans to focus his committee's attention on inadequate mental health services for young people. He also wants to look at possible policy changes that would allow the state to keep oversight over troubled teens until age 21, rather than 18 as is the case now.
Many of the perpetrators in recent mass killings have been between the ages of 18 and 21, including Robert Hawkins, who killed nine people, including himself, during a rampage at Omaha's Westroads Mall in 2007.
Ashford said he also wants to discuss additional requirements for the use of trigger locks, which can prevent the unauthorized use of a gun.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
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