Arizona senate candidate calls for mental health reforms post-Parkland shooting

A Republican candidate running for what will be an open Senate seat in Arizona reiterated the call for mental health reforms over new gun laws in the wake of the latest school shooting in Florida.

“I think that we can look at the existing laws that we have on the books and see what’s working and what’s not but making new gun laws doesn’t seem to do much for the criminals or the mentally ill,” Kelli Ward, who is one of the Republicans vying to fill Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat come November, told ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast. “It just seeks to make it more difficult for law-abiding gun owners.”

Ward calls herself “a proud supporter of the Second Amendment” and says that she is open to considering increasing the age required for gun sales.

“I think upping the age a bit to 21 before you can purchase a firearm is reasonable because I as a parent, if I want to take my children out to the gun range to teach them how to properly handle firearms, I’m more than able to do that but they don’t need to be able to go and purchase one themselves perhaps,” she said.

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Speaking directly about the “heartbreaking” deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Ward said that the system’s failure to help the alleged gunman, Nikolas Cruz, before the shooting should prompt mental health reforms.

“We let that kid down. He’s been crying out for help basically for his entire life and he’s been pushed aside and pushed aside and pushed aside to the point that he created havoc and committed this horrific act and what I think we need to be looking at is the mental health issue, not only in the adult population but also in kids,” Ward said.

Ross D. Franklin/APArizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward speaks at a campaign rally, Oct. 17, 2017, in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“We have to be finding ways to connect people so that they don’t feel that utter loneliness and that just the despair that is playing out on this kid’s face. You have to also be looking at bullying behavior and finding ways to root that out so that our kids are growing up in a safer, healthier and happier environment so that we don’t get to this point again and again and again in this country,” she said.

Turning to the impending March 5 deadline that President Donald Trump imposed as decision day for the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, Ward says that no permanent solution should be agreed upon until multiple facets of border security are addressed.

Ward included the funding of the border wall, the end of the diversity lottery immigration program, the elimination of chain migration, and defunding sanctuary cities as steps that need to come before a permanent DACA solution.

“Cnce we do that, and only then can we talk about a permanent solution for that population. In the meantime, I’m fine with a temporary solution to allow them to continue to work, to continue to go to school, to live without being in fear, while we secure our border,” Ward said.

ABCArizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward speaks with ABC’s Martha Raddatz in an interview for “This Week.”

Ward is in Washington D.C. this week to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and, when asked, would not directly call Trump a conservative.

“I don’t think that President Trump ran as a conservative. He ran as a Republican, he ran as someone who was going to offer something different from what we’ve had decade after decade after decade, and I’ve been very happy with what he’s delivered,” Ward said.

“I think he’s done a lot of conservative things. I don’t know, you’d have to ask how he describes himself,” she said. “I describe myself as a liberty-loving constitutional Republican.”