OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — An Illinois lawmaker was among the crowd during Monday's Highland Park shooting. He issued a challenge to voters across the country: to call lawmakers and ask about gun rights and high-capacity magazines.
Illinois State Rep. Bob Morgan also urged people to ask about mental health funding and how that help will get to communities that need it most.
"People want to know what can you do, call your local elected officials, today, this morning. Ask them two questions, one: why is an assault rifle or high-capacity ammunition — why is that more valuable and have more rights than my life, than my children's lives? That's one question. See what they say and follow up and have a conversation and dialog. Question two: what are you going to do to increase funding for mental health?" Morgan said.
3 News Now brought these questions to Nebraska's lawmakers.
"It doesn't take, uh you know, someone who is just brilliant in constitutional law or in just how to take care of our Nebraska kids and citizens and our people to know that there has to be some reasonable regulation," said State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks and candidate for the 1st Congressional District, during a Zoom call.
She said that to her, that does not mean taking away people's guns.
"I am not sure what giving an 18-year-old an AR-15 has to do with a well-regulated militia which is part of the Second Amendment," Pansing Brooks said.
U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, who is running again in the 2nd Congressional District, was asked the same question as Pansing Brooks.
"It breaks my heart, we had six people lost in Chicago, I think 21 in Texas, every one is bad, but we gotta remember that 99 percent of the people are law-abiding people," Bacon said.
He went on to refer to the Supreme Court.
"I just want people to think about this logically, right, do you propose to get rid of all semi-automatic rifles, in the end the Supreme Court has generally ruled that the defense of the law-abiding persons have these rights," Bacon said.
Both were also asked about mental health in Nebraska.
Pansing Brooks said it starts with funding.
"We have got to supplement those providers and give them the help they need to help our Nebraska citizens who are in true need," Pansing Brooks said, adding that she will work with anyone across the aisle.
Bacon said the focus should be on mental health and not necessarily guns.
"I am for expanding mental health in our public schools, our children's hospitals, our community health centers, I support Medicaid funding for mental health, some of that money would help out kids that are struggling," Bacon said.
3 News Now also spoke to Nebraska State Sen. Mike Flood, who will officially fill the 1st Congressional District seat on Tuesday and aims to retain it for a full term in November's election. Flood sent a general statement via email, but did not respond with answers to these specific questions.
Flood's statement reads in full:
"Mandi and I are keeping the community of Highland Park and all those impacted in our prayers. Tragedies like this reinforce the importance of a well-resourced, proactive mental healthcare system that can identify threats and intervene with troubled people before they hurt others. I'm proud to have been a part of efforts in the Legislature to enhance mental health treatment across the state, but we know we have a lot more work to do. I look forward to working with law enforcement and local leaders to help provide better tools and more resources to meet this challenge, because public safety will always be my top priority. Infringing on the rights of law-abiding gun owners and playing politics won't solve anything. We need to work together toward actual solutions to keep people safe."
In the gubernatorial race, Republican candidate Jim Pillen gave a general statement via text message, but no response to the specific questions posed to the other candidates..
Pillen's statement reads in full:
"Our hearts break for the victims of the tragedy in Highland Park, Illinois. There are rarely easy answers, but as law enforcement continues to investigate, I hope every community in our state is taking the time to assess its approach to identifying potentially violent, troubled people and acting to keep the public safe. We need to further expand capacity in our mental and behavioral healthcare systems. Our state has made a lot of progress, but we know there are still challenges we need to address.”
State Sen. Carol Blood, who is running against Pillen as the Democratic candidate in the gubernatorial race, responded but said she's tied up with a family emergency.
Tony Vargas, the Democratic candidate running against Bacon, did not respond to 3 News Now.