U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, speaks to reporters after delivering an address to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Monday in Juneau. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Sullivan: Debate over violence must be broader than guns

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Monday, February 26, 2018 10:28pm
  • News

JUNEAU — U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said violence in video games and movies should be discussed as part of a larger debate on gun violence and suggested Monday that states should decide whether school teachers should be armed.

Meanwhile, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, who was in Washington, D.C. for a gathering of the nation’s governors, told The Associated Press something must be done in response to the violence.

But he said he wants to speak with advisers from within his administration and possibly also hear from outside voices before taking any action. He said he wants to discuss ideas other states have done to see if they would make sense in Alaska.

“I think we have to do something that will make a difference,” said Walker, a former Republican no longer affiliated with a party.

Sullivan, a Republican, was in Alaska’s capital Monday, for an annual address to the state Legislature in which he expressed optimism for Alaska’s future and touched on policy victories over the last year.

With crime a concern for many Alaskans, Sullivan said work remains in trying to ensure that communities are safe. He said the shooting at a Florida high school earlier this month that left 17 people dead had forced a national discussion on school safety.

He said he will evaluate proposals brought forward on the federal level aimed at preventing similar incidents in the future.

“However, as Alaskans, we understand how important our Second Amendment rights are,” he said. “We use firearms not only for self-defense but as a tool to feed our families. And in many ways we are unique from almost every other state in the nation on this issue.”

Both he and Walker expressed concern with proposals to raise the minimum age to buy a gun, citing the state’s hunting culture.

Teenagers hunt, Walker noted. “There’s no one-size-fits-all as far as I’m concerned,” Walker said. “It is a states’ rights issue, I believe, and we need to address it as Alaskans, what makes the most sense.”

Sullivan told reporters he has doubts about the idea of arming teachers, which President Donald Trump has floated. He suggested that’s an issue that should be decided at the state, rather than the federal, level.

He also said the discussion about gun violence must go beyond guns, citing what he says has been a “hardening of our culture” over the last 40 years with violent movies and video games.

Sullivan said some might scoff at that or ridicule him as a “modern-day Tipper Gore.” Gore, in the 1980s, was part of an effort that pushed for parental warning labels on music with violent or sexually explicit lyrics.

But if that isn’t part of the discussion, “I think we’re really missing something,” he said.

He also said there is an opportunity to learn from what happened in the Florida shooting, including “red flags” that had been raised about the alleged shooter that may have been missed.

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