Guns Aren't Responsible for School Shootings, Blame Music and Video Games: Republican Governor

The governor of Kentucky on Thursday side-stepped calls for gun control in the wake of a school shooting that left 17 people dead and more than a dozen more wounded after a teen opened fire with a legally purchased AR-15. Instead, Republican Governor Matt Bevin called for an "honest conversation" about violence, then pointed the blame at video games and music. 

"We need to have an honest conversation as to what should and should not be allowed in the United States as it relates to the things being put in the hands of our young people," he told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Just a day after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Bevin limited his public criticism to the First Amendment, not the Second. 

"I'm a big believer in the First Amendment and right to free speech, but there are certain things that are so graphic as it relates to violence, and things that are so pornographic on a whole another front that we allow to pass under the guise of free speech, which arguably are," he told the Enquirer. "But there is zero redemptive value. There is zero upside to any of this being in the public domain, let alone in the minds and hands and homes of our young people."

GettyImages-918690996 Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is seen on a closed-circuit television screen during a bond hearing in front of Broward Judge Kim Mollica at the Broward County Courthouse on February 15 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the school shooting. Susan Stocker - Pool/Getty Images

In a Facebook address, Bevin called on a litany of people—from President Donald Trump and Congress, to video game and music producers—to find a solution to violence in the United States, though he refrained from mentioning anything about guns.

"Our culture is crumbling from within.... All of you, we've got to step up. We're the adults, lets act like it," he implored. "Let's step forward, let's start a conversation and let's try to figure out how to try to repair this fabric of America that's getting shredded beyond recognition." 

Related: As Florida shooting unfolded, NRA was promoting 'buy your loved one a gun' Twitter post

Bevin has been a staunch opponent to gun control measures and has tauted his relationship with the National Rifle Association. He spoke at the annual Leadership Forum for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action—the group's lobbying wing—in 2016, a year after the organization endorsed him for governor.

Gun violence, however, has not spared his state. Just three weeks ago, a 15-year-old shooter, identified by the Courier Journal as Gabe Parker, allegedly opened fire at Marshall County High School in rural town of Benton. The shooting left two students, Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope, both also 15, dead and more than a dozen others wounded. 

Within hours of that incident, Bevin urged the community to come together but said nothing of stymying such tragedy in the future, whether by gun control or video game restriction. 

"This is a tremendous tragedy and speaks to the heartbreak present in our communities. It is unbelievable that this would happen in a small, close-knit community like Marshall County," Bevin said in a statement. "As there is still much unknown, I encourage people to love on each other at this time. Do not speculate, but come alongside each other in support and allow the facts to come out."

After the Las Vegas shooting that left 58 people dead and hundreds wounded, Bevin said gun control would not have stopped massacre. "To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs...You can't regulate evil," he tweeted.  

Bevin's opposition to gun control appears to stem from personal anecdotes and dubious data. As a student, USA Today reported, Bevin said some of his peers would bring guns to school for show-and-tell. "Sometimes they'd be in kids' lockers," he said. "Nobody even thought about shooting other people with them. So it's not a gun problem."

He also said guns per capita have dropped over the past 50 to 100 years, according to the newspaper. It's unclear where he got that information, but it likely didn't come from the federal government.

According to a report commissioned by Congress and published by the Congressional Research Service, there were about twice was many guns per capita in 2010 than in 1968. Firearm manufacturing has also spiked, according to a 2015 report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The agency reported that nearly 11 million guns were manufactured in 2013, more than double the number manufactured just five years earlier. 

Despite that reported increase in tools of war available in the country, Bevin turned to the media rather than gun manufactures to act.

"Something has to be done," he said in his Facebook plea. "Let's start a dialogue."