HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett this afternoon responded to questions about banning assault weapons by saying such a law is a matter for Congress.
Asked if a federal ban would make Pennsylvanians safer, the governor paused and said that with such firearms already in circulation, the government should focus on mental health issues.
"The assault weapons are already out there," Mr. Corbett, a Republican, said. "A new ban isn't going to make them safer. I wish it would. It doesn't.
"But if we help with mental health, hopefully that will make us safer."
Mr. Corbett was speaking to reporters at a Capitol news conference when he was asked if he supports banning assault weapons. He said policymakers need to determine the facts of the shooting that killed 20 children and six adults Friday in a school in Newtown, Conn.
He said he believes mental illness is a factor in such mass shootings.
"It's very hard to be prepared for that mental illness striking," he said. "It doesn't matter whether it's the assault weapon or a handgun. It's the mental illness issue that we have to work as much as we possibly can on."
Mr. Corbett raised the subject of how weapons are kept safely, saying that officers in law enforcement and the military secure guns when not handling them.
"Maybe that's something that should be discussed at some point in time, as to how weapons are secured, particularly if there's children in a home or maybe particularly if there's somebody with a demonstrated case of mental illness," he said.
Pennsylvania includes mental health issues in its background checks for gun sales, he said.
President Barack Obama Wednesday said he would have a broad firearms proposal submitted to Congress next month in the wake of the Connecticut shootings.
Karen Langley: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-787-2141.