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To reduce gun violence, the Minnesota business community must lead the way

REUTERS/Jim Young
An often overlooked consequence of gun violence: It's a serious drain on Minnesota’s economy.

Last April, a man with a lengthy criminal record, including a felony conviction for a drive-by shooting, stormed the second floor office of North Star Criminal Defense in Cathedral Hill. The disgruntled former client pulled out a .40 caliber semiautomatic handgun, aimed it at the law firm’s 23-year-old office manager, Chase Passauer, and pulled the trigger eight times. The recent University of Minnesota graduate and aspiring lawyer died in his office chair, his young life cut short by a man who should have never had access to a gun.

As our state and country sink further into a gun-violence crisis, innocent Minnesotans like Chase are dying at the hands of dangerous people with guns.

900+ Minnesotans are shot every year

Ingrid Christensen

How urgent is this crisis? Every day, someone in Minnesota is shot and killed, and more than 900 Minnesotans are shot every year. From 2002 to 2011, 3,503 people were killed with guns in Minnesota. That is more than the number of all U.S. combat deaths in the Iraq War.

We know too well the heartbreak these shootings leave in their tragic wake, but the destruction wrought by acts of violence have another, too-often overlooked consequence: severe economic damage to our state and local businesses.

Gun violence is a serious drain on Minnesota’s economy. According to a new report, “The Economic Cost of Gun Violence in Minnesota: A Business Case for Action” authored by the Minnesota Coalition for Common Sense, a bipartisan coalition — which includes leaders from across sectors, including the Minnesota business community — gun violence directly costs Minnesota’s economy over $764 million annually.

As a business owner in Minneapolis, I’ve seen how our state’s gun-violence crisis unleashes fears that keep potential customers away and force businesses to limit their hours of operation. After a series of shootings outside my office made my customers and employees feel unsafe, I was forced to relocate my business. Every year, gun violence costs Minnesota $50 million in lost business opportunities.

When you consider the millions of dollars in employer costs, health care, criminal justice expenses, and lost income, it becomes clear this is a crisis our state can no longer afford to ignore. And that’s why our elected leaders need to act now and do more to reduce gun violence and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

Close loopholes, invest in communities

First, our lawmakers should close the dangerous loopholes that let convicted felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill buy guns from unlicensed individual sellers, at gun shows, and online without undergoing a criminal background check. That’s a step we know saves lives: In states that require background checks for all handgun sales, 46 percent fewer women are shot and killed by their partners, 48 percent fewer on-duty police officers are shot to death, and 48 percent fewer people commit suicide with guns.

Second, our lawmakers should invest in our communities and address the environmental risk factors that help contribute to gun violence. By investing in programs that reclaim public space for community use and clean up abandoned properties in impacted communities, Minnesota can reduce violence while also creating social and economic opportunity for local communities.

Third, our lawmakers should institute more violence intervention programs. Community-based strategies like hospital-based intervention programs which use case managers to reduce the probability of violence by and against impacted individuals can also help effectively address gun violence in at-risk populations.

We know what works

While we know there is no single solution that will completely stop all acts of gun violence, when it comes to making our communities safer, we do know what works and saves lives.

For far too long, Minnesota and its business community have felt the direct and indirect consequences of too many shootings. As leaders, we must stand up and to do our part to end this epidemic that has such a large human and economic cost on our communities.

When we save lives, reduce the costs associated with gun violence and curtail employer expenses, Minnesota wins.

So together, guided by our pragmatism and civic obligation to improve the quality of our communities, we must call on our elected leaders to do more to reduce gun violence. Not just with words, but with action.

Ingrid Christensen is a member of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and president of INGCO International.

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Comments (23)

Businesses

If they want to help, business should stop selling guns to criminals. No criminal I have ever heard of runs a gun factory, and not that many own gun stores.

Guns and business

Guns have only one purpose: to kill. The more there are the more they will get used for that purpose.
If we want to accept over 30,000 gun deaths a year then we are on the right track.
What good this does for society I can't see.

Businesses

Businesses that sell firearms perform mandated background checks on customers before selling a gun. That weeds out convicted criminals and some others. In other words businesses already can't legally sell guns to criminals.

Is there a way you know of for a business to identify future criminals?

Guns and business

Your question implies there is no solution. Let's try for one instead of playing the "not me" game.

900+ Minnesotans are shot every year

... and over 70% of them suicides.

What will the "loophole" do about that?

Your must have must have missed it

Not sure what "loophole" you're talking about, but you must have missed the part that said:

"In states that require background checks for all handgun sales:

46 percent fewer women are shot and killed by their partners;

48 percent fewer on-duty police officers are shot to death; and

48 percent fewer people commit suicide with guns."

So I suppose that means your "70%" might stay the same, but the body-count would be about cut in half.

And then there are those women who wouldn't get shot and killed by "upset" men.

And all those cops that would make it home to their wife and kids at the end of their shift instead of winding up in the morgue.

But hey . . . Let me guess. Even though a background check doesn't infringe on it, a law-abiding citizen's second amendment right is more important, right?

Doubt those statistics

Post a link with proof to those numbers, one that is from a valid source (not some liberal college or magazine or website!)

Didn't miss anything.

These numbers are cherry picked research from Everytown.

It makes vast assumptions or correlation and causation, and uses percentages to make single digit changes look much larger. MN, which allows private transfers has 1/3rd of the homicide rate of NC which has UBCs.

My point is the author, like most anti-rights activists is playing fast and loose with numbers in efforts to make their position look stronger than it is.

Criminals do not acquire their firearms through background checks. Its an extereme logical fallacy to think that adding an additional law will affect them.

As long as you focus on the tool, there will never be resolution.

Word Choice

Are these people anti-rights activists or anti-death activists?

Be careful how you choose your words.

MN HAS laws for pistol purchases

No private pistol sale is legal unless the purchaser has a MN permit to purchase. Same for the list of so called assault weapons. So what loophole? Only place a criminal can get a pistol is via illegal sale or theft!

And yes my rights trump your hurt feelings! Enforce the laws we have on the books and put these criminals away for a long time and a lot of these crimes vanish. Lying on a 4473 background check form is a FELONY that is not enforced, our courts have revolving doors where the thugs get a slap on the wrist and dumped back on the streets.

You dont need a permit to

You dont need a permit to purchase for a private transfer.

Gun Purchases

I've bought several pistols without a background check or permit because they were purchased through private parties.

I think people are talking about more than hurt feelings here--they're talking about dead people.

Gun Violence

I as retired police officer from the metro area, I am always amazed at how opponents to the 2nd amendment always without fail, blame gun shows, private purchases, loopholes in the law and lack of enforcement. Background checks are required for all handgun purchases in MN, Most people selling at gun shows are licensed firearms dealers and do background checks at gun shows.Felons. domestic abusers and mentally ill are already prohibited from buying or possessing any firearm. I also would like to see the data that in states that prohibit the sales of handguns without a background check have 46% fewer women shot. That is either a gross exaggeration or a downright lie. Iwasa police officer in Hennepin county for 12 years, Anoka County for 8 and am not aware of any businesses that had shortened their hours because of gun violence. Again an extreme exaggeration. Again while trying to turn all shootings into a crime I cannot find any data that says 900 people are shot every year in MN, but if that figure is even close it would have to include murders, accidents, and suicides. She does not mention the fact that there is very heavy opposition to adding additional police officers to Minneapolis PD and some of the near suburbs who are woefully understaffed in all departments. One only has to look at Chicago who has the strictest gun control laws in the country and an understaffed police department to see why additional laws will not stop crime. I firmly believe what will stop crime is to eliminate gangs and bring back family units in high-crime areas.

Where do Criminals Get Their Guns?

A Newsweek article from earlier this year asks the question, “GUN CONTROL: WHERE DO CRIMINALS GET THEIR WEAPONS?”

http://www.newsweek.com/gun-control-where-criminals-get-weapons-412850

Excerpt:

“A consistent answer emerges from the inmate surveys and from ethnographic studies. Whether guns that end up being used in crime are purchased, swapped, borrowed, shared or stolen, the most likely source is someone known to the offender, an acquaintance or family member. That Farook’s (San Bernadino shooters) friend and neighbor was the source of two of his guns is quite typical, despite the unique circumstances otherwise. Also important are “street” sources, such as gang members and drug dealers, which may also entail a prior relationship."

So-called universal background checks, while sounding good, do not keep guns from criminals.

Gun Violence

While gun violence is a bad thing, it is important to not be snowed by sensationalist rhetoric such as that used in this article. Minnesota's gun homicide rate is roughly equivalent to European nations such as Germany that are often held up as the gold standard by gun control advocates. This in a state where gun ownership is higher than average-most owners of firearms are law abiding. Also, the homicide rate in general is at it's lowest level in most of our lifetimes with around half the number of homicides that there were in the mid-90's.
When a gun is used in a homicide, the chance that the offender using it has a prior felony record and is barred from legally purchasing a gun is very high. Felons generally buy guns through straw purchases-a family member or girlfriend who can pass the background check makes the purchase for them-this is a felony that is rarely prosecuted. Everytown lead the charge to pass a strict gun control regime that was almost identical to the New York Safe Act several years ago in Minnesota-fortunately, grass roots efforts sidelined that attempt by a Bloomberg-funded organization from New York to tell Minnesotans what was good for them...

Bulletin: Criminals don't obey the law!

Among a half-dozen other tape recording-like things pointed to by people who don't want to try ANYthing to bring down the gun-related mayhem rate is:

- Law-abiding citizens are the only ones that obey gun laws

- Criminals don't pay attention to gun laws

- Gun laws only place restrictions on those who follow them

- So gun laws only hurt law-abiding citizens

Tell me . . . Which laws DO criminals abide by?

Isn't "one who disobeys the law" the definition of "criminal"?

Law-abiding people don't rob liquor stores, gas stations or banks.

Criminals do.

Should we get rid of robbery laws?

Law-abiding citizens don't commit rape.

Criminals do.

Should we do away rape laws?

Name the crime . . . Law-abiding people don't commit them.

Criminals do.

There isn't a law anyone can point to that was violated by a law-abiding citizen and wasn't violated by a criminal.

So to say, "Criminals don't obey gun laws, so gun laws are useless" is the same as saying, "All laws are violated by criminals, therefore all laws are useless."

When it comes to the topic of background checks, here's another quote from last January. It comes from Pew Research:

"Americans have shown broad and consistent support for expanded background checks for gun purchasers. In July, 85% of the public – including large majorities of both Republicans (79%) and Democrats (88%) – favored making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks. There also was substantial bipartisan support for laws to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns.

"And Pew Research isn't the only polling organization with these findings. In 2013, a number of other polling organizations found similar results about public views of background checks, asking slightly different questions. A review of more recent polls on this question finds it's still the case."

www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/01/05/5-facts-about-guns-in-the-unite...

So 85 out of 100 people in American are in favor of the kind of background checks Ms Christenson is talking about.

15 out of 100 Americans are not because, they say, as Steve said, "So-called universal background checks, while sounding good, do not keep guns from criminals."

How they know that, I don't know (it's never been tried). If it turns out that expanded background checks don't save lives then we should try something else.

Maybe something like passing a law that makes it clear you WILL be going to prison for at least 10 years if you get caught playing strawman for a criminal or you sell a gun to someone who didn't have a background check done on them prior to the sale and that gun wound up killing someone in the commission of a crime.

Or maybe just call the United Kingdom or Canada and ask them what they're doing and try that.

What it seems those 15 out of 100 Americans against the idea are really saying is, "I don't want to be hassled with background checks anytime I want to get or sell a hand gun, so back off!"

And when it comes to the reduction in the number of dead women, cops and despondent people in states where checks are done on all handgun transactions, what if those checks only brought those rates down 10%? Or 5%? Are you really saying your right to not have to mess with taking an extra step every time you buy or sell a handgun is more important than those people not dying? How many handguns do you buy or sell? How hard, how frequent and big an inconvenience, would it actually be?

And if you see it as an infringement on your second amendment rights I'm sure a lot of people would be interested in an explanation of why you see it that way.

The Gun Show Experiment

Matt Snyders, writing for City Pages, sets out to make a gun show handgun purchase. Snyders has never owned nor fired a hand gun nor has he ever attended a gun show. If you have never attended a gun show, please read the column (linked below). Many people proposing gun policy have insufficient gun experience to be schooling the rest of us.

Excerpt:

"Six days, three gun shows, and 19 attempts to buy handguns sans permit had yielded zero sales."

Link to "Testing Minnesota's gun show loophole":

http://www.citypages.com/news/testing-minnesotas-gun-show-loophole-6725490

Don't bother

I am by no means anti- gun, I will admit I find it astonishing the amounts of money folks in the gun enthusiast set will drop on what are essentially entertainment devices (sorry, but for a good lot that's all they are, check you tube if you disagree). Appeals of the sort made by Mr. Willy sound perfectly logical except for that it seems a rather large disconnect exists. Mr. Willy, they don't CARE who dies, so long as it isn't them. They never will. In their mind the 2nd amendment takes on a strange, heroic context that allows any number of fantastical theoreticals. They might be the one to take down future despot, they can be the one to put a "thug" in their place, they'll be lauded as a champion for saving an innocent in distress, they're the fictional tough that no one dare disrespect. Its ingrained, psychological, there is no seperating the person from the gun enabled mythology. Thankfully, this type only represents a small fraction of the gun owning public, though unlike the rest of us who feel no need to trumpet our status to the world, nor fear moving about in our daily lives deprived of the satisfaction of cold iron on our hips, they are exceptionally vocal. Best to accept them as an one would a dead end in a maze, and find a way to get around. As with all things fueled by zealotry, their fervor will fade in time. Too slowly to be sure, but inevitably.

The False Narrative

True to form, most columns like this lead with a false narrative:

"As our state and country sink further into a gun-violence crisis, innocent Minnesotans like Chase are dying at the hands of dangerous people with guns."

The truth:

"After decades of soaring levels of homicides and drug violence, the country’s crime rate plunged dramatically over the last 25 years. What happened?"

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/04/what-caused-the-crim...

Excerpt:

"Violent crime decreased by one-third. What turned into a precipitous decline started later in some areas and took longer in others. But it happened everywhere: in each region of the country, in cities large and small, in rural and urban areas alike. In the Northeast, which reaped the largest benefits, the homicide rate was halved. Murders plummeted by 75 percent in New York City alone as the city entered the new millennium."

Solution

Like it or not, there is a solution that combines two things the NRA (but not responsible gun owners) would applaud:

1. Registry
2. Buy backs

Yeah, most criminals aren't buying guns on the regulated market. They're buying them from people who have legally purchased them, or have stolen them (ask me if there's more than one criminal in the recent Rogers gun shop theft...).

Registry ties a gun to its owner. If the gun is used in a crime, the registered owner has some 'splainin' to do. Either they fired the weapon or they illegally passed that weapon onto someone else. Most gun owners, knowing that a gun can be traced directly to them, will be smarter about who they hand their guns off to.

Buy backs pull unregistered guns off the street. There are somewhere between 200 million and 300 million firearms in possession of regular American citizens right now (I checked several sources, including pro-gun sites and less biased sites). There are 318 million Americans. That means that there's close to one gun per every man, woman and /child/. That's...a little out of hand. Certainly, there are people who would be happy to get rid of those guns in a more responsible way than selling them to just any Joe Schmoe (with questionable motive). It's not like you can just toss them in the garbage.

Yeah, the NRA would scream like mad (they already do), but if they're serious that they support RESPONSIBLE gun ownership, they'd be looking for solutions that don't require that every potential criminal be locked up for the rest of their lives. Of course, they're not concerned with solutions. There's a reason why myself and other responsible gun owners (including my "gun nut" dad) will never support the NRA.

Stigma

Guns are for cowards. If you want to make some exception for law enforcement and the military, that's a compromise discussion worth having. The cool kids don't need guns. Be like the cool kids.

Cool kids

As a cool kid with a cool head, and an owner of guns, I think you're comment is less than, shall we say, helpful? I don't think you'll win any converts with that message. Even as a gun control proponent, I find myself disliking the cool kids.

An Equalizer

There are circumstances when an equalizer is needed to prevent or reduce a violent crime.

"An elderly woman took hold of a firearm to scare off two men who entered her Big Sur home and attempted to rape her on Sunday, according to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office."

"Two men armed with knives entered the home and made their way into a bedroom, where they tried to rob and rape an elderly woman, according to sheriff’s officials."

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2015/08/11/2-men-attempt-to-rob-rape-elderly...