Casey, Thompson urge different responses to scourge of mass shootings

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Jun. 3—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Thursday was one of the rare days in the United States this year when no mass shooting occurred.

On the same day, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Glenn "G.T." Thompson, R-Centre County, attended an event in Johnstown and took time to discuss the gun violence plaguing the nation during separate interviews with The Tribune-Democrat.

As of June 1, 273 incidents had taken place in the country, according to information compiled by massshootingtracker.site, which defines a mass shooting as "a single outburst of violence in which four or more people are shot." There have been 324 individuals killed and 1,118 wounded during the shootings that have occurred at a rate of 1.77 per day.

More than 4,600 mass shootings have occurred since the beginning of 2013, including in Buffalo, El Paso, Pittsburgh, Parkland, Las Vegas and Orlando. That list does not even include some of the more well-known incidents, such as at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood or Columbine High School.

Casey wants the issues of background checks, extreme risk protection orders and assault weapon ownership to be debated in Congress and then voted on.

"It leads to a kind of a madness where we cure disease, we win World War II, we put a man on the moon, we have all kinds of achievements as a people, but on this issue, are we going to throw up our hands and say there's nothing we can do?" Casey said. "I think that's a defeatist approach to a complicated, tough problem. But it's an approach that's contrary to all of our history."

Regarding the military weapons often used in the attacks, Casey said, "There's no reason why a 19-year-old in America should be able to own a weapon of war and take it into a grocery store, a synagogue, a school and gun down fourth-graders, 10-year-old children with a suit of the equivalent of concrete around him to prevent him from being taken down by law enforcement. We can't allow that to happen."

On May 24, 19 children, ages 9 to 11, and two teachers were killed when a lone gunman opened fire inside a school in Uvalde, Texas.

"We need to harden our schools," Thompson said. "That means with infrastructure so that we control points of access — one way in, one way out."

He wants to invest in "trained, qualified and armed law enforcement in our communities as a deterrent and also to be able to respond when something terrible happens."

Thompson added: "Some people would want to arm teachers and arm volunteers. No way."

Regarding what role the federal government can play, Thompson said, "It is really hard to legislate away evil and mental illness. And I think there's an underlying root there. It's not to say that government shouldn't take action. A lot of people go right to guns and reducing guns. Best estimates are we have over 400 million guns in this country, so that's not going to happen."