Gov. Pete Ricketts pointed Thursday to the need for more mental health services to help identify and assist troubled Americans as a means of addressing gun violence like this week’s most recent attack that killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas.
“The gun is just a tool,” the governor said in answering a question from Jeff Zeleny, chief national affairs correspondent for CNN, during a speaking appearance at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.
The answer to gun violence is not to deprive Americans of their 2nd Amendment gun ownership rights, Ricketts said.
It’s important to “look for signs” of mental illness that may lead to violence and address those needs, he added.
Ricketts said he is “open to ideas to be preventative” in addressing gun violence within the context of protecting the 2nd Amendment.
On another topic, Ricketts said he is prepared to call the Nebraska Legislature into special session with the goal of determining “what can we do more to protect pre-born babies” once the U.S. Supreme Court has delivered its pending decision on whether to end a mother’s right to choose an abortion.
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A preliminary text of the court’s pending ruling leaked to the news media would overturn the decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized a woman’s right to choose.
“They’re babies, too,” Ricketts said in repeating an earlier description of his views.
The court is expected to issue its abortion decision in late June or early July.
On other issues raised during the governor’s appearance at his university alma mater, Ricketts said the sharp political division that’s apparent in the country today is nothing new.
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“Politics (in America) has always been divisive,” Ricketts said. “We’ll get through this … but it’s not going to happen fast.”
Ricketts graduated from the University of Chicago and Zeleny is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Answering questions from students, the governor said he believes Nebraska’s unique unicameral legislature is “not more efficient” than the two-house system, but “you can get to know” senators since there are only 49 of them.
“There are pros and cons,” he said.
Asked about the challenges posed by the declining population in western Nebraska, Ricketts said the state needs to commit more than a billion dollars to expanded rural broadband service and provide more access to health care in rural Nebraska.
David Axelrod, the former senior advisor to President Barack Obama who also served as his chief political strategist, is director of the university’s Institute of Politics and introduced Ricketts to the student audience.
Axelrod said he and Ricketts “disagree on much, but agree on the Cubs.”
The extended Ricketts family owns the Cubs and the governor’s brother, Tom, is chairman of the baseball club.