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Utah lawmakers express sorrow after Texas shooting, fewer calls for action

By Tim Vandenack - Standard-Examiner | May 25, 2022

Billy Calzada/The San Antonio Express-News via AP

Kladys Castellón prays during a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

Members of Utah’s all-Republican legislative contingent to Washington are expressing plenty of shock and sorrow in the aftermath of the shooting in Texas that left 21 dead.

Less pronounced among them are calls for action in response to the incident, the latest in the periodic cycle of mass shootings that shock the public and lead to a flurry of media attention. Among the dead after the shooting at the Uvalde, Texas, grade school were 19 children and two adults, according to media reports.

“My heart breaks at the tragic news from Texas today. I pray for the victims, their families and for our nation at this difficult time,” U.S. Sen. Mike Lee said in a tweet on Tuesday in the wake of the incident.

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney also sounded a solemn tone, with a general acknowledgement that the issue merits more attention.

“Grief overwhelms the soul. Children slaughtered. Lives extinguished. Parents’ hearts wrenched. Incomprehensible,” he said in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “I offer prayer and condolence but know that it is grossly inadequate. We must find answers.”

He elaborated in comments in Washington, D.C.

“Background checks and updating our background check technology is something that I think is an appropriate federal responsibility,” Romney said. Red flag laws, which allow family members to petition for removal of guns from someone who may pose a danger, “make a lot of sense. I think states are wise to adopt those. I think they’d have to be effectively administered at the state level.”

Becky Edwards and Ally Isom, challenging Lee for his Senate seat in the June 28 GOP primary, issued statements calling for action to guard against recurrences of incidents like Tuesday’s shooting.

“If we want to protect our children and begin healing our nation, we have to come to the table with evidence-based and data-driven solutions. Among the solutions with bipartisan support and legislative viability are expanded background checks and improved mental and behavioral health services. I support both,” Edwards said in a statement. She said she has “an infinite commitment to bring voices to the table, collaborate, lead out and find a path forward.”

Isom called for debate on the issue.

“Let’s put politics aside. Let’s have a real conversation about our pervasive culture of violence and dehumanization, how we are wiring our children’s brains and failing them as a society. Let’s talk about gun laws, mental health, racism, bullying, school safety and how people become disconnected from community,” Isom said in a statement.

Responsible gun owners aren’t the problem, she went on, offering mixed opinions on some proposed solutions put forward. “I acknowledge universal background checks are generally a good idea, and the proposed law has many good things in it, but it relies on the integrity and behavior of law-abiding gun owners,” Isom said.

At the U.S. House level, Rep. John Curtis, the 3rd District congressman, expressed heartbreak and alluded to efforts in Congress to address mental health issues, at the root of many mass shootings. “I trust we’ll learn more in the upcoming days about how this could have been prevented but I’m proud of the work we have done in Congress on mental health parity. That said, we still have much more we can do,” Curtis said.

Curtis is seeking reelection to the 3rd District seat, with a primary election against former state Rep. Chris Herrod set for June 28. Herrod, on his campaign’s Twitter account, also made a statement on the shooting.

“My heart is broken with the news out of Uvalde, Texas today. Acts of violence of any kind, but especially against children, is beyond comprehension. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the city of Uvalde during this extremely difficult time,” he wrote.

Also running for the seat is Darlene McDonald, the only Democrat in the race. She posted a series of tweets Tuesday and Wednesday as news unfolded about the shooting.

Children having to do active shooter drills and still getting slaughtered, grandparents murdered while grocery shopping, church goers gunned down while praying need more from our nation’s leaders than thoughts and prayers. We need courage. We need solutions. #EnoughIsEnough” she wrote.

U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens, who represents the 4th District, sounded a message of sorrow and sympathy as did U.S. Rep. Blake Moore, the 1st District lawmaker.

On his personal twitter account, Owens wrote, “Heartbroken for the entire Uvalde community. This was a senseless act of pure evil, and my prayers are with the families of these precious, innocent souls. As a father and grandfather, I cannot imagine the devastation they are feeling this moment.”

Jake Hunsaker, the other GOP candidate seeking the 4th District post, also shared a statement online. “My heart is broken for the children and families of the Uvalde community This violent, unfathomable act of evil — and too many like it — haunts the American conscience. Events like this should compel our leaders to do the hard work of finding real answers and proposing real solutions,” reads part of the statement.

Moore elaborated on potential action going forward in response to a Standard-Examiner inquiry

“We must identify and treat the anger and illnesses that lead to horrific violence, and provide resources, tools and help to prevent these crises,” Moore said, calling for bipartisan action and involvement in addressing the matter from the broader community. Any action “must be grounded in data and done in a way that doesn’t punish the rights of law-abiding Americans. I am a strong supporter of legislation like the 21st Century Cures Act, the STOP School Violence Act, the Fix NICS Act and mental health bills, and I co-sponsored the 21st Century NICS Act to improve our background check records.”

Moore, finishing his first term, is seeking reelection to the 1st District spot, challenged by Tina Cannon and Andrew Badger on the GOP side and Democrat Rick Jones.

Cannon expressed sympathy for the families of the victims and the broader community of Uvalde, Texas, where Tuesday’s shooting occurred. She also put out a call to better protect children as the shooting occurred at a school, but indicated that gun controls wouldn’t necessarily resolve the issue of mass shootings.

“How this tragedy could have been prevented seems a question as old as time. How do we stand between evil and our children? If only the answer were as easy as passing a gun control law, but it isn’t,” she said. Federal laws requiring background checks on the purchase of firearms, she noted, didn’t stop the Uvalde gunman.

As more details of the shooting come out, ideas of how it might have been prevented may emerge. Meanwhile, she said Congress should pass a measure that offers up protections for schools. “It should have been done long ago. As a mother and the next Congresswoman from Utah’s 1st District, it will be a paramount priority,” she said.

Jones offered condolences to the victims of Tuesday’s shooting and their families, while also expressing support for legislative action to address gun violence. Most Americans, 80% or more, express support in polling for more legislative action to stem gun violence, he said.

“I completely favor tighter background checks,” and, possibly, more controls on large gun magazines, he said. “Why is it 80% of the public’s wishes are irrelevant?”

Rep. Chris Stewart, the 2nd District rep, didn’t offer a response to the shooting on his Facebook or Twitter accounts.

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