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Must talk gun purchases, age, Hutchinson says

Governor sees need for U.S. discussion by Ryan Tarinelli | June 1, 2022 at 7:24 a.m.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson answers a question during the weekly covid-19 update on Tuesday, June 29, 2021, at the state Capitol in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday said raising the purchasing age of AR-15 style weapons should be in the conversation as the nation continues to grapple with the aftermath of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

The shooter in the attack bought two guns, an AR-style rifle and a second rifle, days before the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School. The shooter, who made the acquisitions days after he became 18 years old, killed 19 students and two teachers.

"You've got to be able to talk about the AR-15 style weapons and whether that's an 18 or 21 age. You have to at least have a conversation about that," the Republican governor said during a Tuesday interview in New York with CNN's New Day.

Hutchinson's comments come as a bipartisan group of U.S. senators have agreed to work on how to respond to the recent mass shooting. It remains unclear whether a compromise on gun safety legislation will attract enough Republican support to pass the chamber.

Hutchinson, who serves as chairman of the National Governors Association, applauded the senators' efforts and said he hopes to have a working group on the topic involving governors from both parties.

"America wants to see, in a bipartisan way, this kind of discussion going on, looking for solutions that make a difference," said Hutchinson, commenting on the talks in the Senate. "I hope to be able to mirror that as a governor."

A challenge on gun safety is coming up with solutions that make a difference, he said.

There should also be discourse about investing in higher levels of school safety, Hutchinson said in the CNN interview.

Uvalde parents and others have criticized the police for failing to quickly intervene. Students inside the building repeatedly dialed 911, seeking help; law enforcement officials waited upwards of an hour before breaching the classroom.

"[It] didn't work very well in Uvalde. But they didn't follow the guidebook either, what it appears to be. And so that's an extraordinary tragedy that's driving the discussion today as it should," he said.

During a separate Tuesday interview on Fox & Friends, Hutchinson said mental health issues have to be addressed and social media platforms must do a better job of identifying and reporting threats of violence to law enforcement.

In the aftermath of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 people dead, Hutchinson launched the Arkansas School Safety Commission.

It released a report with recommendations on various topics, including mental health and security.

One recommendation called for school districts to put in place "a positive climate program that deters bullying behaviorsand promotes social-emotional learning and positive peer relationships."

Another recommended that "no campus should ever be without an armed presence when staff and children are attending class or a major extracurricular activity."

"We put in more resources, we improved our counseling in our schools, but there's always vulnerabilities that you worry about and also the execution of the plans that you have," Hutchinson said in the Fox & Friends interview.

Hutchinson spokeswoman Shealyn Sowers said the governor is in New York for economic development and is set to return today.

Information for this story was contributed by the Associated Press.


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