State Must Take Lead on Gun Control

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By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

Few people have faith in the leadership in Washington, D.C., to act with decisive purpose to implement meaningful gun control legislation following yet another mass shooting at a school. Fourteen children and three teachers slaughtered with an AR-15 military-style rifle in six minutes.

They’ve done this drill before. Twenty children and six teachers massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary, in Newtown, CT. Congress did nothing.

People gathered for good times at a concert (Las Vegas,) a movie theatre (Denver,) a nightclub (Orlando), and a shopping mall (Burlington, WA,) gunned down. People gathered at a church murdered in Charleston, SC, and Sutherland Springs, TX. What did we get from Washington to make our nation safer? Nothing.

The formula is all too familiar. First, we get the meaningless “thoughts and prayers” line. Flags fly at half-staff; such a common sight it is has become another hollow gesture. As the public outrage fades, conservative members of Congress financed by the National Rifle Association block any laws that could reduce the killing sprees, then pass laws that loosen the restrictions on gun ownership.

It’s worse at the state level where the push to allow people to carry guns without permits, to bring them into public meetings, to walk into courthouses and onto college campuses have been passed or are being pushed.

We can’t do much about Washington’s dysfunction, but we can take action in Minnesota. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that there could be five different bills dealing with guns coming up in the current legislative session.

A “stand your ground” bill introduced by Republican state Rep. Jim Nash, Waconia, would allow a gun-toting person to shoot to kill someone committing a felony whether in the person’s home or anywhere else. The bill passed out of a Republican-controlled committee and could be voted on in the House soon. The Senate hasn’t passed the bill out of committee yet.

Law enforcement officers are trained to use lethal force only as a last resort. They have training in how to recognize dangerous situations that require deadly force and events that they can mediate to non-violent ends – their experience in the field hones that judgment. They are trained to separate bad actors from nearby innocent bystanders. Despite all this training and experience they still make mistakes. They shoot the child holding a toy gun. They shoot the person in the dark alley that made the 911 call. They kill someone in a home where a prankster called in an address of a person who allegedly committed a kidnapping. They shoot and kill people having mental breakdowns that may appear threatening, but are in fact harmless.

Now we are going to let complete amateurs carrying guns make a snap judgment about a felony unfolding, shoot, and then figure out whether or not the person just killed was innocent? Such a law is just nuts.

Nash also has introduced a bill that would greatly reduce the requirement for a permit to carry a gun onto public property by those permitted to carry. Again, do we really want anyone with a permit to be allowed to walk into a public building carrying a gun without someone first checking on the person’s background? His bill is waiting for committee approval.

Those are the two outrageously dumb bills in the Legislature. The other three involve adopting common-sense measures to reduce gun deaths.

St. Louis Park Democrat Sen. Ron Latz sponsored a bill last year that would have let law enforcement officers and a person’s family members ask “a court to ban a person from possessing firearms if they pose a threat.” The request would have to be accompanied by evidence substantiating the request including a “history of threats of violence, arrests, and drug or alcohol abuse.”

If approved, the order would only stand for six months to two years. Latz’s bill didn’t get a hearing last year; it should this year.

Latz also introduced a bill requiring universal background checks for gun sales between private parties.  “If a buyer and seller aren’t federally licensed, they’re required to appear before a licensed dealer, who would conduct the background check and keep a record of the transaction,” the Associated Press reported. “The bill includes some exceptions, such as exchanges between family members. This bill is also in the judiciary committee without a hearing.” Pass the bill.

Finally, Democratic Rep. John Considine, Mankato, introduced a bill last week to outlaw “bump” stocks. Bump stocks make semi-automatic weapons into basically machine guns. His bill was referred to the House Public Safety Committee. There is absolutely no sound reason not to pass it.

After the atrocity of Sandy Hook Elementary, Connecticut lawmakers passed stricter gun laws that are making the state’s children safer. They passed laws that addressed four primary gun control needs:

- They expanded an existing ban on assault rifle sales.
- They prohibited the sale of magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds.
- They required the registration of existing A-15 style assault rifles and high capacity magazines.
- Finally, they required background checks for all sales of firearms. At the same time, they established a registry of people who had violated firearms laws.

The changes have resulted in a significant drop in the number of firearms deaths in Connecticut since the Sandy Hook Elementary killings. We would hope there are legislators in Minnesota who would introduce similar legislation to protect our children.

Even more needs to be done, however. We need a gun buy-back program. We need to hold those responsible for providing guns to people who use them in killings accountable. We need a heightened awareness among law enforcement and mental health officials that ensures disturbed people reported as possibly dangerous are investigated and guns taken out of their possession.

The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has found that, for the most part, tough gun laws reduce gun deaths. New York, Connecticut, California and New Jersey have fewer deaths than the states with few restrictions such as Alabama, Louisiana, and Alaska. Let’s make Minnesota safer.

 

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