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Prominent Kan. officials respond to Conn. shooting

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 23, 2012 at 11:47 am •  Published: December 23, 2012
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Comments from prominent Kansas officials and members of the state's congressional delegation about possible responses to the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., earlier this month.

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"As a society, we must be willing to look beyond the obvious question to really take a hard look at why these senseless acts of violence continue to play out in towns across America. It's time to have an honest discussion about the culture of violence in America and more specifically, the root cause of this and other types of violence: mental illness. We will have a debate on gun control, but I think and many Kansans agree that to ignore a comprehensive examination of mental health policies in America is doing the victims of these mass murders, and the rest of the nation, a disservice," U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican, said in an emailed statement.

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"In the wake of such an unspeakable tragedy, it is natural to raise questions about how and why this happened and what should be done - but it is clear the underlying issues behind this senseless act of violence involve more than gun control laws. As we look for answers, I join the entire nation in mourning with the community of Newtown and praying for the victims and their families," U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican, said in an emailed statement.

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"One of the things I want to look at is whether or not we're providing sufficient mental health services in the state of Kansas. ... One thing that may be different after Connecticut — there may be, hopefully, a serious national discussion about these things. ... If you immediately go to the heat-seeking issue, you're not even going to start the discussion. It's just going to go to the polarized points immediately," Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, said during an interview.

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"In the days ahead, it is my hope we can have an honest discussion about what causes these types of tragedies and how we can prevent them. One of those discussions needs to focus on how we approach mental health in this country. We need to ensure all families have access to resources to help prevent mentally unstable individuals from harming themselves or others. Most of all, we need to remove the stigma of mental health treatment, so that those affected will get the help they need. ... Prevention starts with getting folks the care they need, and that means improving accessibility and affordability," said U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Republican who represents the 2nd Congressional District of eastern Kansas, in a statement. Having served two terms, she is the state's senior U.S. House member.

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"These mass acts of violence demonstrate a coarsening of society that devalues life at all stages. Fundamentally, the problem here is not guns, it's people. And, the answer is not more state or federal legislation, but the answer is culture — reaffirming the role of the family, community, and the value of life as well as de-stigmatizing mental illness so that people who need help can get it," U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Republican who represents the 1st District of western and central Kansas, said in an emailed statement.

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"What happened in Newtown was an unimaginable act of evil, something that stands out even amidst an often coarse and violent culture. Funerals are still taking place, and we're still learning more of the facts. There will be time for a meaningful discussion of potential policy responses in the coming weeks," U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the 4th District of south-central Kansas, said, also in an emailed statement.

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"We need to think about and pray for the victims and their families and let emotions die down before considering any significant changes in gun laws. ... We just need to settle down. ... It needs to be an evidence-based approach and not a reaction," incoming Kansas Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a Hutchinson Republican, said during an interview.

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"The discussion we ought to be having in light of the Connecticut shooting has lots of components to it. I disagree with people who say it's just about mental health or it's just about gun control. ... I'm not necessarily saying we need to go out and change and pass new gun laws. We need to have a conversation about this. We can't just shove it under the rug," Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, said during an interview.

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"The bottom line is, how could we have stopped this? ... Well, if they (the teachers and principal) had had the right tools, they likely would have stopped him (the gunman). ... Who are the first responders? They're not the police. They're not the fire department. They're the people who are there," said state Rep. and state Sen.-elect Forrest Knox, an Altoona Republican, who's pushed legislation to make it easier for people who have concealed carry permits to bring their weapons into public buildings. He made his comments during an interview.

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"Frankly, it bothers me that we look at the solution being that we turn our schools into armed fortresses. ... Let's really get serious and deal with the issue. ... I don't want to send my kids up to a place that has to be guarded by someone with an assault weapon. ... All of us have to show ID and are limited in the amount of Sudafed we can buy. But we can buy as much ammunition as we want," Mark Desetti, a lobbyist for the Kansas National Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, said during an interview.

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