SALT LAKE CITY — Vowing to be a "constructive voice," Sen. Mitt Romney called for government action and legislation in the wake of "senseless" mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio in the past week.
In addition, the Utah Republican called for a greater commitment to racial equality.
Romney said many of his colleagues have various proposals that touch on different aspects of the gun debate.
"These issues involve constitutional rights and deeply held beliefs, but that is not an excuse to shy away from a serious, fact-based, and thorough national discussion which will potentially lead to remedial legislation," he said in a statement.
"This will require courage and a willingness from all sides to find areas of consensus, instead of retreating to partisan corners," Romney said. "I am determined to be a constructive voice in that endeavor."
The recent tragedies demand "thoughtful, considered" action from local, state and federal leaders as well as ordinary citizens, he said.
"Too often, once the initial headlines of a tragedy fade, the national conversation moves on without giving these issues the full attention they merit," Romney said.
After several school shootings last year, Romney said states, not the federal government, should establish gun laws and school safety measures. He said he did not support new federal gun control legislation, except banning the sale of bump stocks and an updated background check system.
President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that "Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform."
Speaking from the White House later Monday, the president called for reforms to mental health laws and criticized violent video games, saying he had also asked the FBI to identify resources needed to disrupt domestic terrorism.
Trump did not repeat his call for stronger background checks, as he tweeted earlier Monday.
"Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun," Trump said in the televised speech. "I am open and ready to listen and discuss all ideas that will actually work and make a very big difference."
Trump later tweeted that he's directing the Department of Justice to propose legislation "ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the DEATH PENALTY — and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively, and without years of needless delay."
In addition to policy solutions, people must vocally reassert a commitment to the principle of racial equality, Romney said.
"Vile acts and words of white supremacy have once again torn at the heart of the American spirit. This cannot be met with silence from leaders of any kind," he said.
"In our homes, churches, businesses and public places, we must testify that every person, regardless of race, religion, gender, national origin and orientation is equal in the eyes of our creator.”
Utah's only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams, tweeted, "We must unite as a country and work together right now to find solutions to combat domestic terrorism. We can start by denouncing white nationalism."
Vile acts and words of white supremacy have once again torn at the heart of the American spirit. This cannot be met with silence from leaders of any kind.
–Sen. Mitt Romney
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said now is a time for prayer. He also praised the first responders who "fought evil with bravery" and condemned those who exploit the tragedies for political gain.
"Laws are useless without a profound change of heart. We must show forth a greater respect for one another. We must strengthen our families and we must hold a higher veneration for the sanctity of human life," he said.
Mormon Women for Ethical Government in a statement Monday said the El Paso shooter's manifesto echoed "prejudicial rhetoric coming from our highest leaders." The group said silence or hollow calls for "counterfeit unity and selective civility" represent "cruel complacency."
"It is not enough for our political leaders to denounce the fire they lit. They must now actively and remorsefully work with the full weight of their offices to douse this flame," according to the group.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert ordered flags in the state be flown at half-staff.
"Our hearts are heavy as we reflect on the hateful and cruel violence that rocked our nation this weekend," he said in a statement. "As Utahns, we grieve with all those who have lost loved ones in these senseless and vile shootings, and we pray for the recovery of the wounded.”