PHOENIX — How do we stop mass shootings?
It's a question on many of our minds after 31 people were killed and dozens more injured in two separate mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, this past weekend.
Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone weighed in on the discussion with 12 News.
The sheriff says there are many factors that contribute to gun violence in our country. And one contributing factor can't be singled out as the reason the country has faced so many gruesome mass shootings.
"It is not just mental illness...it is not just the internet, it is not just video games, it is not just the access to firearms. They are all in some way, shape or form, contributors," Penzone said.
Penzone is asking those in leadership roles to have the courage to represent the interests of the people who put them in power, rather than their own.
Then the sheriff tackled the issue at the center of many conversations about mass shootings; a person's rights to free speech and to own guns.
“We can protect the First Amendment and also respect the fact that our words have implications and have consequences because we can either inspire or we can negatively influence those that we are speaking to or about,” Penzone said.
He went on to say he believes the Second Amendment and safe communities can coexist.
"There is no reason we can’t have thoughtful conversation about what is appropriate as it relates to access to firearms. How can we either limit, restrict, or prohibit those who we know unequivocally have forfeited that right, because of either their mental health circumstances, their criminal background or other factors,” Penzone explained.
With that being said, he says there shouldn't be loopholes for those trying to purchase a gun.
"We can't have loopholes. You can’t say you can go to a legitimate gun store to purchase a weapon and have to fill out a form and go through a background, but you can go to your neighbor's house and purchase it without a record or to a gun show,” Penzone said.
While the wait continues to see if lawmakers will act, there are actions we can take as community members to protect ourselves.
Sheriff Penzone encourages people to be mindful of those in their lives and help them get resources if they are struggling with emotional problems or mental illness. He says to keep an eye out for those who might be violent in nature.
Penzone also called for more support and resources for school-aged children, such as more mental health staff in schools and teacher training.
"This is a holistic issue," Penzone added.