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SALT LAKE CITY — The American public is fed up, frightened and frustrated in the wake of the repeated mass shooting tragedies at schools and is asking leaders to "do something," to stop the deaths, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday.
Herbert, speaking during his monthly KUED press conference, said he's not sure an all-out ban on assault rifles is the answer — pointing to the varying definitions on what constitutes that style of weapon — but said a ban on bump stocks should be pursued.
The Las Vegas shooter last October who left 58 dead and more than 850 injured in the worst U.S. shooting in modern history used bump stocks, or gun-altering devices that replaces a rifle's standard stock.
Herbert also said he agrees with comments on school shootings made by Mitt Romney, the GOP front-runner vying to replace Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
Romney said states are in a much better position to craft effective policies and reforms that could abate school violence than the federal government and can design state-specific approaches.
Much like the state's suicide prevention task force is designing ways to help high-risk populations, boost crisis intervention options and enhance protections, Utah could help mitigate the possibility of school shootings by focusing on those same areas, Herbert said.
In the wake of last week's school shooting in Florida, Herbert said state school officials and law enforcement officers are evaluating what safety protocols are in place throughout Utah and whether those plans are sufficient.
He said some areas of the state may have proper procedures in place for active shooter drills, while others have room for improvement.
School lockdowns are a common occurrence in Utah, especially along the Wasatch Front, and there have been isolated incidents in which troubled schoolchildren have attacked their classmates.
In Orem in 2016, a teenage boy brought a martial arts stick and knife to his high school and randomly attacked five other students in what prosecutors described as a "rampage of assaults."
An on-duty officer at the school subdued the teen, who was charged with five counts of attempted murder.
Authorities thwarted two Roy High School students in a plot to blow up the Weber County school in 2012 after a fellow student saw threatening text messages and came forward.
Although Herbert said Utah has not had a mass school shooting, there have been similar devastating events like the Feb. 12, 2007, shooting spree at Trolley Square that left five shoppers dead, four others wounded and the gunman killed in a shootout with police.
The governor stressed that school and law enforcement officials need to remain vigilant to the threat of mass shootings, but society and parents have a role to play in how young people grow up and to what degree they are exposed to violence.
"We ought to be concerned about the violence that comes out of Hollywood … and virtual reality games," he said.