HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Dealing with mental illness, not toughening gun control, is the key issue that must be considered in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shootings, Gov. Tom Corbett said Thursday.
At a news conference where he was peppered with pointed questions on a wide-range of topics, Corbett said any ban on assault weapons is a federal issue that will be decided in Congress, not by the states.
"Until the federal government changes the law, we have assault weapons there," he said. "Even if they were to change the law, they aren't going to take the ones that are presently there away. We need to enforce the laws."
The Republican governor offered no proposals to expand services for mentally ill people or new public-safety measures beyond the current law requiring background checks for prospective gun purchasers under most circumstances.
Adam Lanza is believed to have used a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle in last week's killings of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Pennsylvania gun shop owners say sales of assault-style weapons have been brisk because gun owners are concerned about possible new restrictions in the wake of that and other recent mass shootings.
Corbett suggested gun owners could do a better job of securing their firearms when they are not in use, but stressed that he is not proposing legislation, only pointing out the issue as "something we ought to begin the thought process on."
"This is something that is less than a week old. Let us digest this. Let us see what we can do. Let us sit down and talk about it," he said.
On a related note, Corbett said he planned to join members of the governor's staff and cabinet in a moment of silence in honor of the victims on Friday morning.
The governor's comments followed the unveiling a new website that his administration and lawyers say will make state government more transparent.
The PennWATCH site (http://bit.ly/UU6bS0 ) is divided into four general areas — budget, revenues, spending and workforce — and contains links to various state agencies that contain details on many subjects.
They include state budget appropriations, tax collections, annual salaries for most state employees, state contract information and campaign finance reports.
Corbett said the website fulfills his promise to increase access to information about state government.
The state Democratic Party responded with a four pages of excerpts from newspaper editorials and stories criticizing Corbett for routinely withholding seemingly routine information from reporters.
"Today's press conference is window dressing for a secretive administration that has gone out of its way to hide its work from the people of Pennsylvania and it highlights another broken promise by Gov. Corbett," said party spokesman Mark Nicastre.