President Obama met with local officials, community activists, victims of gun violence and local law enforcement at a round table discussion in Minneapolis Monday afternoon. He spoke with them and stated he wanted to hear their ideas about how we can protect our kids. President Obama said, “If we’re serious about preventing the kinds of tragedies that happen, law enforcement and other community leaders must have a seat at the table.” He called it a “very productive discussion.”
After the round table discussion, Obama addressed the local media with the Minneapolis Police Department and the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department behind him and shared his solution to gun violence.
The president laid out his plan by stating the need for universal background checks on anyone wanting to purchase a gun. He said this solution is based on neither liberal nor conservative ideas but has support across the board. He referenced three main parts of his plan:
– Legislation to crack down on people selling guns to criminals.
– Reinstate a ban on military assault rifles.
– Guns to be limited to 10-round magazines.
“Our law enforcement should never be outgunned by the criminals,” Obama added.
Obama detailed some possible root causes for the gun violence. He said he plans to make it easier for young people to get the mental health treatment they need. He would also like to see “more cops on the beat” and hopes that Congress will confirm Todd Jones, Minnesota’s U.S. attorney, as head of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Recently, there has been much buzz over this issue within Pine County. Pine County Sheriff Robin Cole publicly stated he will not enforce, and is not required to enforce, any new federal law the president may enact regarding gun control saying, “I would view any such mandate, regulation or administrative rule illegal and refuse to carry it out.”
The sheriff’s comments drew both criticism and a “hat’s off to the sheriff” response from Pine County residents. A handful of sheriffs across the nation have also come out against any new gun control law. They cite the oath they took in becoming a sheriff in which they are obligated to uphold the U.S. Constitution.
A spokesperson for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department spoke with the Courier on the possibility of creating a ban on assault rifles or limiting the capacity of magazines or clips. “Let the Legislature do their job and hopefully, they will seek our input when legislating,” stated Randy Gustafson, public information officer, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department. Gustafson also concurred with Pine County Sheriff Cole in that sheriffs are not obligated to enforce federal law.
“The number of bullets in a person’s gun is less of a concern than who is carrying the gun,” added Gustafson. “We should be able to keep that right, but with that comes responsibility.”
Gustafson stated law enforcement would like to have actual access to information, which people think they already have access to, such as mental health information associated with abnormal behaviors or criminal activity.
A local law officer questioned a policy determining mental health in regards to gun ownership stating, “Who is going to decide what is abnormal behavior or if a person might be deemed as dangerous? Might I be considered dangerous because of a certain activity I participate in?”
The theme that transcended the conversations among journalists, prior to the president’s speech, is there seems to be a correlation between where people live and how they view gun control laws.
Some north Minneapolis residents were questioned on their feelings about further gun control laws. One resident named Angela stated she completely supports any ban on assault weapons and she is tired of seeing children die like they do because of the violence incurred with guns.
Another resident, named Tamika, stated the criminals are the ones with the guns and “it wouldn’t do any good, they would just get the guns without background checks anyway.”
Two men traveled from Detroit, Michigan, to state their support for Obama’s gun legislation. One man said he took two personal days just to travel to Minneapolis and tell people the killing needs to stop.
The opinions of the city dwellers interviewed contrasted with the opinions of local Pine County residents informally polled in Pine County, all of whom wanted to be identified by only their first names. One man named Roger stated, “Unfortunately, when you live in a free society, there may be a price tag that comes along with that.”
Another Pine County resident, Vince, added, “Passing another law to stop gun violence is not the answer. The current laws we have now are not working. What is one more law going to do?”
A third Pine County resident, Jeff, blamed the media saying, “A big problem is that there is too much reporting and too much information which puts ideas in people’s heads. Also, I own 10 guns and have never needed a 30-round clip.” Another male resident blamed the lack of morality in our culture for recent gun violence.
The recurring theme heard among the Pine County residents’ interviews was “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The recurring theme heard among the inner-city residents was they “wanted to see an end to the gun violence that is happening within their own communities.”