NORTHWEST Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The recent mass shootings at a Texas elementary school and an Oklahoma health center are sparking concern across the country. Activists and lawmakers are clashing on how to prevent future attacks from happening.
State Senator Bob Ballinger worked at a grocery store across the street from the St. Francis Health System in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where four people were killed Wednesday in a shooting. He said the violent act hits close to home for him.
“You know, this is not Chicago. This is not downtown Detroit. This is Tulsa and rural Texas,” said Ballinger.
Ballinger strongly believes gun control is not the answer.
“The solution is not to disarm our citizens. That’s not the solution. I have no interest in making it where more people are more vulnerable in more places,” said Ballinger.
Amy Gillepsie, with “Moms Demand Action – Arkansas”, said her mom worked at the St. Francis Health System until a few years ago. With the recent uptick in attacks, Gillepsie wants to see more action taken by legislators.
“They need to prioritize life-saving gun measures, background checks on every gun sale, and raising the minimum age to purchase these weapons to 21,” said Gillepsie.
On Wednesday, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced plans to introduce legislation, restricting the purchase of certain guns for those under the age of 21. This comes nearly a month after a student at the Arkansas Arts Academy in Rogers brought an unloaded AK-47 on school property.
Ballinger disagrees with enforcing future legislation supporting the age change.
“As long as we’re sending soldiers over to die at 18, as long as we’re locking people up from prison to commit a crime at 18, you know, as long as we’re saying people are adults at 18, I’m not taking adults rights away,” said Ballinger.
Ballinger believes more money should go into mental health programs and increasing security in public places.
“We should try to target those kids who need help and try to find ways to get help. If that means more money then we need to figure out a way to do that,” said Ballinger.
Gillepsie doesn’t think that will solve the deeper rooted issues.
“If you look at the shooting in Buffalo, New York, that was hate. Hate is not a mental health problem. Hate is learned,” said Gillepsie.
The United States Conference of Mayors, including mayors of Bella Vista and Fayetteville, resent a previous letter to the U.S. Senate Thursday. It asks for two bills to consider passing in the Senate, including bills H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446. Both bills would address more background checks before guns can be sold.
“Moms Demand Action – Arkansas” is hosting an event Saturday in Springdale. The group is hosting a “wear orange event”. Members will wear orange and call for an end to gun violence. To find out more about the event, you can text the word “orange” to 264433.