ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaskans have plenty of reasons to be happy and hopeful despite the month on the calendar or the cold in the air, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Thursday.
"There’s new investment in the military," Murkowski told a joint session of the Alaska Legislature in her annual speech. "There’s new opportunity to refill TAPS [Trans-Alaska Pipeline System]. There’s new experiences with mining. Our tourism industry – our visitor industry – is going strong."
The state also has new federal money for roads, she said, adding that federal tax changes should help Alaska.
"We have the glimmers of spring all around us," Murkowski said.
But the senator also cited some darkness, such as mass shootings.
"There is no simple fix, we know that. But we do know that we are failing so many with mental illnesses in how we answer their cries for help before they do harm," Murkowski said. "If the senseless death of children cannot bring us together to find solutions, I don’t know what can."
During a question and answer session that followed her speech, one Alaska legislator, Rep. Adam Wool, suggested that the nation was in a "childproof-cap moment" with guns, like it was to supermarket poisonings in the 1980s. In response to this comment, Murkowski didn’t have much to say.
"There is no one answer," she replied.
Later, at a news conference, a reporter suggested she was reluctant to use the word "guns." Murkowski said she wasn’t, but wanted to steer clear of blaming a specific weapon.
"If we, as a Congress, were to outlaw the sale of AR-15s [assault rifles], is that going to be keeping the next person… from finding another weapon that can be equally destructive?" she replied. "If we put ourselves in a situation where it’s the NRA versus the world, have we really gotten to the root of what we’re dealing with?"
She added, "I think the U.S. has a problem of accessibility of guns for those who have mental illness."