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Herbert talks school shootings, gun control with Trump

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert said Monday he believes the Utah Legislature will find money to put extra police officers in schools and they will act before the session ends next week.

"Yes I do" think it will happen, he told the Deseret News following daylong meetings with the National Governors Association in which Herbert was one of the governors who spoke out on the issue of school safety.

"We need to add some (money) for security aspects of school. It will be a topic before the session," he told the Deseret News.

Earlier, Herbert sounded out over the national tragedy of school shootings, telling President Donald Trump during the governors meeting the answers begin with the states.

"I think there are roles for the federal government, but I think most of the solutions are going to come from the states," Herbert said during a televised meeting in Washington.

"Each state is going to have to find their own way, based on their own culture, based on their own politics, based on their own unique demographics, but we will learn from each other," he said.

Herbert talked of the costs of embedding a contingency of law enforcement in every school — leading him to ask about the costs of doing the business of education — adding, "That is the result of society today. … This is the problem of today: safety in schools."

Herbert said he is against full-out arming of teachers in the classroom, saying "they should not be our first line of defense," but stressed the need for parents and teachers to have confidence in the safety of campuses statewide.

He reiterated that a statewide review is underway to make sure Utah schools are prepared and up-to-date on responses to mass shooters and other emergency incidents.

Last week, Herbert said he was in favor of banning bump stocks — attachments that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire faster — and said the public is demanding solutions to school shootings from their leaders.

Monday, he told Trump that he met with legislators as recently as Sunday night to discuss ways to boost school safety while keeping law enforcement costs in mind.

He also urged Utah's leaders to engage in thoughtful debate about additional steps that might be taken in the arena of gun legislation.

"We need to have that discussion," he said. If Utah is contemplating raising the age of smoking nicotine to 21, why not discuss similar prohibitions when it comes to guns.

"Should an 18-year-old be able to access an AR-15 or an assault rifle? There should be a willigness to have that debate," he said. "Whatever we decide, there needs to be some measurable benefit."

Up for consideration are more comprehensive background checks and restrictions on the number of shots in a magazine, he added.

What works in Texas or some other state, however, might not work in Utah, he said.

"That is the beauty of the states," emphasizing that East Coast states may not have the tradition of hunting and fishing like those in the West, but policy leaders and lawmakers have to be willing to talk.

"The time for action is now. We need to do what we can to provide safety in our schools," he said.

Herbert also participated in panel discussions on workforce development and Medicaid reform, whirlwind meetings he said were extremely encouraging about the role of states in forming their own solutions to problems unique to their borders.

He said he repeatedly heard the message that states rightfully, legally and practically should have more say in solving issues in their own backyard.

"We hearing they understand that states need more flexibility and autonomy."