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SALT LAKE CITY — Gun control laws aren't the answer to stop mass shootings and may make residents of states that restrict access to weapons more vulnerable, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Friday.
"You've probably noticed most of these (shootings) have happened in states that have heavy gun laws," Hatch told KSL. "They don't seem to happen in states where these people know the people have guns."
The senator dismissed President Barack Obama's statement that the United States has "become numb" to mass shootings after the death of at least nine people Thursday in an incident at Oregon's Umpqua Community College.
"I wish he'd become numb to these gun control laws that don't work," Hatch said. "The thing that gets me is every time one of these happens, you have a liberal like the president come out and say, 'We've got to have gun control.'"
Obama has tried since taking office nearly seven years ago to tighten gun laws without success. He called Thursday on Americans "to think about how they can get our government to change these laws and save lives."
The parents need to do a better job. I don't think they should have to pay for what their sons or daughters do, but yes, they should bear some responsibility because they have to know before society does.
–Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
Hatch said the issue "is a political thing to the president. He thinks he can keep all of his left-wing crowd together and he will. They love to hear that type of talk and if you'll notice, lately he's talking to them all the time and ignoring the rest of America."
The problem that leads to mass shootings is mental illness, the senator said. But more laws aren't the answer, he said, to keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill either.
"We have plenty of laws with regard to improper use of weapons," Hatch said, adding that what's needed is for parents to seek help for their mentally ill children and take responsibility for their actions.
"The parents need to do a better job," the senator said. "I don't think they should have to pay for what their sons or daughters do, but yes, they should bear some responsibility because they have to know before society does."
Hatch also said the diminishing of the role of faith in America is at fault.
"We've got to get people back into realizing this is a Judeo-Christian country built upon freedom of religion and religious liberty," he said. "If we emphasize that more than we have and get people going back to church, a lot of these things will be solved."
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, joined Hatch in calling for more attention to mental health issues associated with mass shootings.
"I strongly disagree with the president — we have not become numb to these tragedies. I mourn each of the lives lost in Oregon, and I think most Americans do, too," Stewart said.
But, he said, the Second Amendment "is a personal right as outlined in the Constitution, and therefore we must address the underlying issues of mental health services and treatment in this country."