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
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.
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