By Daniel Desrochers

In 2018, at least 26 students have died in five school shootings in America. Two of those deaths came in a shooting at Marshall County High School in Kentucky.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he doesn't think Congress can do much to address the issue.

"I don't think at the federal level there's much that we can do other than appropriate funds," McConnell, R-Ky., told a group of community leaders in Danville Tuesday.

McConnell's comments come in the wake of a national push to strengthen gun safety laws in America, and in the midst of a proposed property tax increase by Fayette County schools to boost school safety measures in the district.

Two students were killed in a shooting at Marshall County High School this January. Weeks later, after 14 students were killed in a shooting at a Florida High school, survivors of the shooting launched a campaign to reform the country's gun laws.

The student activists have called for universal background checks on gun purchases, a ban on semi-automatic gun purchases, a ban on bump stocks and increasing the legal age to purchase guns to 21. All of those changes could be made at the federal level.

McConnell is not in favor of gun control laws. He pointed out that Congress appropriated money for school counseling and school safety in its appropriations bill and said he thinks school security is the most likely way that schools can stop shootings.

"You would think, given how much it takes to get on an American plane or given how much it takes to get into courthouses, that this might be something that we could achieve, but I don't think we could do that from Washington; I think it's basically a local decision," he said.

The Fayette County School District unveiled a sweeping plan Monday to increase school safety, including metal detectors in schools and increased mental health counseling. The safety measures would be funded by an increase in property taxes in the county.

"It's a darn shame that's where we are but this epidemic is something that's got all of our attention," McConnell said of the school shootings. "And I know it's got the attention of every school superintendent in the country."

Meanwhile, little action has been taken to address the issue on a state level. The legislature established a study group on school safety after the legislative session wrapped up and a bill that would have required mental health counselors in schools, HB 604, died in the Senate.

For his part, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has focused on the "culture" around gun violence. In a video after the Marshall County shooting, he blamed a "culture of death" in America and attributed the violence to video games, films, television and social media.

In a meeting with the Federal Commission on School Safety last week, Bevin brought up the impact of smart phones on students' mental health.

"We need to start being very, very intentional and thoughtful and data driven as it relates to the impact of these devices in the hands of young people," Bevin said.

(c)2018 Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)