TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback said Thursday that he wants to examine whether Kansas is providing adequate mental health services but is wary of jumping into a contentious debate over gun control following last week’s mass elementary school shooting in Connecticut.
Brownback also said during an interview with The Associated Press that he believes responding to the shooting with proposals to rewrite gun laws is likely to prevent a serious examination of mental health services. He said he believes the nation needs to look into mental health services and the deeper causes of such mass shootings.
The Kansas governor has previously limited his comments about last week’s events in Newtown, Conn., by expressing public support for the families of the victims. A gunman killed 27 people, including 20 children, before killing himself.
The deaths occurred two days before two Topeka police officers were gunned down in a grocery store parking lot when they went to investigate a report of possible drug activity.
“One of the things I want to look at is whether or not we’re providing sufficient mental health services,” Brownback said. “I think it’s going to get a lot more interest now because I think the country’s just a lot more serious about dealing with this after Connecticut.”
The mass shooting in Connecticut has renewed the nation’s debate over issues such as whether a federal ban on semi-automatic weapons should be revived or whether background checks should be required for all gun sales. But gun rights advocates in several states have argued their laws should be revised to allow teachers and administrators to bring concealed weapons into school buildings for protection.
Kansas law allows residents to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons. There’s a general ban on concealed weapons on school property, but local officials can pre-empt the ban by declining to post notices on school buildings, though education officials don’t know of any examples where that’s happened.
Brownback said having a national discussion about mental health services is vital, but, “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,” he said.