Yet again in the United States, a single man has massacred innocent strangers in a public place. This time, twenty young children and six adults were killed.
This event has shocked our nation, but it is tragically unsurprising. We have grown accustomed, in this country, to hearing about horrific mass killings. We even have a naming convention, in which the community's name becomes forever associated with the horror: Aurora, Tucson, Fort Hood, Wisconsin Sikh Temple, Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook simply joins that painful list.
We have grown even more accustomed to the daily toll of lives lost to gunfire in our communities. It is not common for so many children to die to a single gun in the hands of a single man, but children all over this country are killed by guns almost every day
. Just a little less than weeks before Sandy Hook, I stood with grieving family members and shocked neighbors for a vigil for just one beautiful child killed by a gun, two-year-old Neejnco Xiong
, who was accidentally shot and killed by his four-year-old brother with a handgun that was stored loaded and unlocked.
This completely unnecessary and tragic loss of lives will continue, with new names being added to the list of children killed by guns every day, until and unless political leaders decide to get serious about guns. As Pastor Jane Buckley-Farley from Trinity Lutheran Church said at the vigil for Neejnco, there is simply no place in a civilized society for these weapons. We do not need them, we do not benefit from them, and they are quite literally killing our children.
I am heartened that the Sandy Hook tragedy, precisely because it is so shocking, seems to have seized the conscience of the nation, and of our political leaders. I am encouraged to hear President Obama say
"We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws, can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every act of senseless violence in our society. But that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this."
I agree. We can and must do better, and I welcome the President's new attention to this issue.
I am encouraged by the fact that legislation has been reintroduced at the federal level to address the military-style weapons, unconscionably capacious magazines, and other aspects of the gun industry that make tragedies like this possible. It is good to see that many Representatives and Senators, even those who have supported the NRA in the past, are awakening from the spell of fear and inaction that the NRA has cast over Washington (and Saint Paul) for so long. Sensible prohibitions on military-style weapons and regulations on handguns are not
unconstitutional, and do not
infringe on the rights of hunters and other legal gun users. We can protect the rights of gun owners while also protecting our children's right to live
I will also act, in whatever capacity I can as a Minneapolis Council Member. I plan to push for the City to take a strong stand in our legislative agenda, especially at the federal level. Our current federal agenda
does not mention gun control, and that must change. Our recently adopted state legislative agenda
does mention gun control:
"Legislation supporting significant gun control measures including the mandatory reporting of any lost or stolen firearm, strengthening laws regulating the transfer of firearms, the prohibition of possessing replica guns in public, and measures to stop the flow of handguns to youth."
This can and should go much further. I think it is time for the City to push for the repeal of the state law
from the 1980s that prohibits local units of government from regulating guns. Minneapolis should be able to develop our own community standards and laws for guns, as we can for restaurants and bars, taxis, and many other much less deadly objects.
I will also be pushing for the Council to adopt a resolution about guns. My hope is that such a resolution will make clear what we believe the higher units of government should do, commit the City to doing what is within our power, and calling on our residents to make voluntary changes regarding guns. Specifically, I believe that the City should encourage all residents of Minneapolis who own guns to voluntarily give them up. Having a gun in one's home does not make one safer, it increases the chances of injury and death - whether through mass shootings like Sandy Hook, homicide, suicide or accident. I hope that the City will also remind those who do not choose to get rid of their guns to store them locked and unloaded, with the bullets stored separately, and to promptly report the theft or loss of any gun.
If we are serious about wanting to prevent a future Sandy Hook, we must get serious about guns. As the President said, we can't tolerate this anymore. Surely we can do better.