Ricketts says he doesn’t think assault-weapons ban is key to stopping school shootings

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said Tuesday he doesn’t think an assault-weapons ban is the solution to stopping school shootings.

A weapons ban would infringe on Second Amendment rights, Ricketts said.

Ricketts said he favors strengthening background checks and identifying potential shooters early to head off attacks.

The governor said he doesn’t want to impose his own solutions. Instead, he said, he is calling for a dialogue with the state’s law enforcement officials, educators and mental health care professionals to look for answers.

“Are there other things we can do to make sure that when we see individuals who are clearly disturbed that we’re getting to them earlier for intervention, to prevent these sort of things from happening,” he said. “That’s the real reason these events are happening.”

The governor spoke to reporters after visiting a classroom at Holy Name Catholic School in Omaha, where he signed a Statehood Day proclamation and fielded questions from fourth-graders. None of the children asked questions about school safety. They peppered him with questions about baseball, his favorite food and what it’s like to be governor.

After leaving the classroom, Ricketts took questions from news media members in a hallway. School safety dominated the questioning.

Ricketts, who said he is a gun owner and member of the National Rifle Association, said he remains open to hosting an NRA convention in the state. He made the offer after a Dallas city official asked the NRA to move its meeting, set for May 4-6, after the school shooting in Florida. A spokesman for the NRA said the organization had no plans to move its meeting out of Dallas.

Ricketts’ offer drew criticism from gun opponents and a rebuke from the Nebraska Democratic Party.

He said Nebraska is a state where most people understand the importance of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

He said the Dallas official’s comment provided a great opportunity to invite a huge convention to the state to show off Nebraska.

“We’re ideally located in the center of the country,” Ricketts said. “We’ve got a lot of great sportsmen and sportswomen. We host gun shows. So this is something we thought would be a great opportunity … “

Asked by a reporter about the subsequent criticism, Ricketts said: “Certainly, there’s going to be naysayers about this, but I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for Nebraskans to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a great place, please come visit us.’”

Asked if he supports arming teachers, he said he’s not opposed to it. “I think what we want to do is have conversations about it,” he said.

The Feb. 14 massacre of 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school has sparked renewed debate about gun regulations and school safety. President Donald Trump has suggested arming teachers, prompting sharp criticism from teachers’ unions.

While at Holy Name, Ricketts spoke to 29 fourth-graders in teacher Melanie Stara’s classroom.

He signed a proclamation declaring March 1 Nebraska Statehood Day, commemorating the 151st anniversary of Nebraska becoming the 37th state in the union.

In addition to answering questions about his favorite food (Zio’s Pizza), favorite baseball team (Chicago Cubs) and movie stars he has met (Bill Murray), Ricketts made a pitch for Legislative Bill 295, the Opportunity Scholarships Act.

The bill would allow income tax credits for donating to private and parochial school scholarships.

“What that would do is help create scholarships for kids like you to be able to come to Holy Name,” he said. “So that’s an important bill before the Legislature right now.”

He suggested that parents and teachers could contact lawmakers with their support.

Critics of the bill have said it would drain money from the state budget that otherwise could support public schools.

We strive for accuracy. Report a typo, inaccuracy, or mistake here.