Kansas politicians offer prayers, direct lowering of flags in wake of Texas school massacre

U.S. House delegation split along party lines in 2019 vote on background check bill

By: - May 25, 2022 12:01 pm
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly ordered flags lowered to half-staff statewide until Friday in wake of a Texas elementary school massacre leaving 19 students and two teachers dead. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly ordered flags lowered to half-staff statewide until Friday in wake of a Texas elementary school massacre leaving 19 students and two teachers dead. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas elected public officials expressed dismay Wednesday at the murder of 19 children and two teachers by a lone gunman in a classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, ordered flags lowered to half-staff throughout the state until sundown Friday in response to the deadliest school shooting in the United States since the 2012 carnage in Newtown, Connecticut.

“Our thoughts are with the families who have lost their loved ones to this senseless act of violence,” Kelly said. “We must do more to protect our children and ensure that schools are safe places for learning.”

At least five of the state’s six members of the congressional delegation expressed sympathy or offered prayers to families touched by the massacre allegedly perpetrated by an 18-year-old.

“This is horrifying news and every parent, teacher or community’s nightmare,” said U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican and the longest-serving Kansas lawmaker in Washington, D.C.

In remarks to FBI Director Christopher Wray at a Senate committee hearing, Moran said he was certain no person in that small Texas community would be left unscathed by murder of innocent children. He said no one should doubt violent crime was a growing problem in the United States.

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, also a Republican, said his prayers were with families going through “this incredibly difficult time.” He offered his support of law enforcement officers working to “get to the bottom of this tragedy.”

He introduced legislation that would grant federal tax incentives to individuals taking firearm safety courses or taking steps to secure their firearms. He supported funding to upgrade security at schools and to improve reporting of criminal convictions to the federal NICS system.

Marshall, while serving in the U.S. House, voted in 2019 against a bill that would have expanded federal background checks for gun purchases and transfers. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act was passed by the House with mostly Democratic votes, but didn’t advance in the U.S. Senate. At that time, President Donald Trump said he would veto bills tightening access to firearms.

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat serving the 3rd District in the Kansas City area, voted for that House measure three years ago. It was opposed by U.S. Reps. Ron Estes and Steve Watkins, both Republicans, as well as Marshall. More recently, Davids urged passage of regulations on unserialized and untraceable “ghost guns” that can be bought online and assembled.

“I’m heartbroken for the families in Uvalde, Texas,” Davids said. “Kansans are tired of politicians doing nothing to stop these senseless killings, and they’re tired of the gun lobby having more of a say in our country than they do. It’s time Washington finally comes together to stop these tragedies. We need commonsense, bipartisan and popular measures like requiring background checks for gun owners, and we need to get big money out of politics.”

Mark McCaughrean, a Republican candidate in the 3rd congressional district and U.S. Army veteran, said he couldn’t fathom losing his 7-year-old daughter to school violence.

“I lost a fellow brother in arms in Iraq and standing at the position of attention with full salute for that 21-gun salute took everything out of me. Living life through this is absolutely on another level,” he said.

Estes, who serves the 4th District that includes Wichita, said images and stories emerging from Uvalde were “horrific and heart-wrenching.”

“We mourn together as a nation over these lost lives and pray for healing and revival in this country,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, a Republican who ousted Watkins in the 2nd District, said he was grateful law enforcement officers and other first responders rushed to the elementary school.

“Join me in praying for the families of the victims and the entire Uvalde community as they navigate this horrific event,” LaTurner said.

Social media posts by members of the Kansas congressional delegation were met with responses indicating public frustration with reluctance of Congress to act in wake of repeated mass shootings in the United States.

“Paying attention?” Niki Griswold asked Marshall, Moran and U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann. “The agonized screams of family members are audible from the parking lot.”

Raiden Gonzalez said Kansas politicians could “keep your thoughts and prayers” and demanded substantive legislative action against gun violence.

“All states must wake up,” said Jerry Brown. “We know how to stop this. Fix this. Gun control is not and should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue.”

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.