COLUMBUS, Ohio - Gov. John Kasich said Tuesday that a bill he'll soon sign allowing guns into the Ohio Statehouse parking garage is "completely separate" from school safety enhancements he's pursuing in the wake of shootings in Connecticut.
The Republican governor told reporters Tuesday that he's rejecting calls to veto the bill because it passed overwhelmingly and represents a measured approach.
"As we move forward, whatever we do, we don't want to erode the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens," he said.
Kasich said he had his education adviser convene a committee involving the attorney general's office, and the state departments of Education, Mental Health and Public Safety, including Homeland Security, after 20 children and six adults were killed Friday in Newtown, Conn. He said the group will continue to watch the national conversation and make sure Ohio schools are safe.
"I think that it would be a big mistake for us not to focus on the fundamental cause of this violence, which in many cases is deep societal issues that involve treatment of the mentally ill. It involves the unbelievable amount of violence that we see every day, whether it's in the movies or on television," he said. "And the most important thing for us right now here in the state of Ohio is to make sure we have safe schools, and we're going to do everything we can to do it."
The governor said as a result of the Connecticut shooting, Mental Health Director Tracy Plouck is keeping tabs on families in Chardon, where three were left dead after a school shooting this year.
"We kept an eye on Chardon as a result of the long-term impact of what happened there," Kasich said. "We're trying to bring as much assistance as we can."
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett criticized Kasich's predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland, for making similar calls for a national discussion and a search for the root causes of school violence that were made after a meeting of the Ohio Electoral College on Monday. Strickland is weighing a potential gubernatorial bid against Kasich in two years.
Bennett said Strickland's first and only concern should be for the safety and well-being of victims of the Connecticut shootings.
"Everything he does and says ought to be on behalf of the victims, instead of going to a Statehouse full of reporters to speak about such a political issue," Bennett said in a statement. "It's shameful that former Governor Strickland would try to steal the spotlight from the victims of this horrific tragedy while he mulls a decision to campaign for governor."
Strickland, whose political career was built with help from the National Rifle Association, said it's time to bring gun rights advocates, the entertainment industry and politicians together to reduce violence after the massacre in Connecticut. He called on President Barack Obama to orchestrate a conversation representing all points of view.