Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday he's grateful the state hasn't seen a mass school shooting, but he believes the odds are "it will happen in the state of Utah one day."
"And I'm probably going to have to be the one to stand in front of those parents and look them in the eye, and it's going to be devastating if I can't, in good faith, say we tried to do something," Cox said during his monthly PBS news conference.
He said he's asked individual state legislators to "please keep an open mind," eliminate their biases "and let's have a conversation and see if there are some things that we can come together on."
Cox pointed to the difficulty of the debate, noting that he has "a hard time" listening to those who say preventing gun violence is "all about guns," but he also has a hard time listening to those who say it "isn't about guns at all."
The governor said he hopes to see advocacy work to "restore respect for those weapons and the way they're used" and to promote gun safety, as well as potential laws to ensure safe gun storage, including to make gun locks available "ubiquitously."
"I want to do things that make a difference, and so that's why some of the proposals that have come forward, when taken to their logical conclusion, would have no impact on some of these other shootings, so I don't think that's helpful," Cox said.
He said he is open to discussion about "red flag" laws, which allow people to request guns to be removed from someone close to them if they believe that person is at risk. But Cox said previous legislative proposals have run into issues with protecting a person's Second Amendment rights.
When asked whether he is open to discussions about raising the legal age to purchase a gun, Cox said the fact that the country sends 18-year-olds out with guns to fight for the country makes him "pause" on the proposal.
The governor pointed to the state's efforts to improve student mental health over the past few years — more than in the state's previous history — and to the SafeUT app that helps prevent potential school violence. He said the app receives an average of one tip per day.
"And those tips are: 'So and so just posted on social media that they want to do something terrible,' and we've intervened, law enforcement has intervened," he said.
Bleeding control kits in schools
One Democratic Utah state senator announced Wednesday he wants to require bleeding control kits and training for all public schools in case of mass school shootings, amid frustration with the Legislature's coldness toward gun reform laws.
"If my colleagues are unwilling to address gun control, then we must prepare for the bloody aftermath of a mass shooting," Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, said in a statement Wednesday.
He said he's opened a bill file for the proposal. Bleeding control kits are meant to prevent blood loss for trauma victims and include tools like tourniquets, according to the Red Cross.
On Thursday, he emphasized he doesn't intend the proposal as a message bill but as a way to begin a discussion about "how we save lives." He noted the kits contain items that can save lives in a war zones.
Davis wants the kits in all K-12 schools in Utah. He said the "ongoing trend of mass shootings around the country" and the "velocity" of AR-15s prompted him to run the bill.
AR-15s are lightweight semiautomatic rifles that fire one shot with each pull of the trigger. They are often referred to as assault rifles. Assault rifles, however, are considered by many to mean guns that are fully automatic. The definition of what should be classified as an assault rifle is a contentious debate among those for and against gun control measures.
Guns are being brought into schools in Utah, Davis noted, and being prepared for a shooting "doesn't mean anti-gun."
"I would prefer we pass common-sense gun safety laws," Davis said in the statement, but he contends that the Republican-led Legislature "will not allow any form of gun control in Utah."
He told KSL.com he believes that even a red flag law would not stop "something tragic happening." But bleeding control kits could help survivors of a shooting help others who are injured, he said.
"So, I'm asking we have a conversation about the alternative: supplying our schools with the medical equipment and training needed to treat severe injuries that can result from a mass shooting, such as those seen in Uvalde and Buffalo."
He noted that emergency medical technicians, paramedics and other first responders now often carry bleed control kits.
"This may be gruesome to consider, but these bleeding control kits can save lives," Davis said. "Until our Legislature gains the courage to say, 'enough is enough,' we can at least ensure our schools are equipped for the consequences of our Legislature's inaction."
The bill has not yet been drafted, Davis said, adding that he plans to work out details of the bill in coming weeks.