LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Governor Asa Hutchinson said Thursday he is not considering changing gun legislation in the state this year in the wake of mass shootings in Tulsa and Uvalde.
In a “pen and pad” for journalists, Gov. Hutchinson said if he calls a special session, the focus will be on increasing school safety.
“When I talk about the special session, school safety is what I expect to be on the agenda, nothing more,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said it’s the state’s responsibility to make sure all schools are safe and kids are protected.
“It is a constitutional responsibility of the state of Arkansas to assure we have a quality school system but that we also have a safe school system,” Hutchinson said.
The Governor said school safety has always been top of mind for him. He said he created the Arkansas School Safety Commission back in 2018 which reviewed school safety throughout the state and implemented more mental health help for students. Hutchinson is reconvening the commission to update school safety needs.
Hutchinson said he’s planning on putting surplus money towards improving school security.
“I want to put a meaningful amount of money that would go into perhaps a grant program that would support the efforts of the local school districts to enhance safety,” Hutchinson said.
While Democrat State Rep. Nicole Clowney said improving school safety is only part of the solution to preventing mass shootings.
“Without a serious conversation about gun policy in this country, we will never be able to make a huge dent in the problem that we’ve seen just grow exponentially over the past few years,” Clowney said.
Clowney said she would like to see multiple gun reform changes considered in Arkansas.
“Things like universal background checks, for instance, would make a very big difference,” Clowney said. “We all know that the Uvalde shooter purchased his weapon legally, so we need to look seriously at raising the age from 18 to 21.”
While, Republican State Sen. Ballinger said he does not believe universal background checks are needed. He said its about school safety and mental health help.
“We should be trying to target these kids who need help and try to find ways to get help and if that means more money than we got to figure out a way to do that” Ballinger said.
There is no set date for a special session, but Gov. Hutchinson said it could be in July or August.