“Everybody’s got a gun, so I shot first.” That quote was given by a young man involved in a recent shootout in St. Paul, as an explanation for his actions. Our capital city is experiencing levels of gun violence not seen in 20 years. This month Mayor Melvin Carter will be holding meetings to explore options to address the issue, which include focused deterrence programs. These carrot and stick initiatives have had success in other big cities, and hold out promise for us here.
But underlying every consideration around this issue is the fact that it is still far too easy for dangerous persons to acquire guns in Minnesota. It is perfectly legal for an individual to fill their car with guns obtained at a licensed dealer, and turn around and sell them on the street to anyone, provided the seller has no knowledge that the buyer is legally ineligible to own a gun.
The whole process has been made easier by online sites such as Armslist that regularly list thousands of guns for sale in our state. Safe storage laws to prevent theft, harsher penalties for straw purchases, stricter oversight of licensed dealers who may be selling illegally, are all important measures. But any effort to control the acquisition of guns by criminals will be hamstrung without universal criminal background check legislation to require background checks on all sales, including private transactions. In everyday parlance the law would read something like: “If you are a criminal, we aren’t going to let private individuals legally sell you a gun anymore.”
How hard is that to understand? It won’t stop every sale to a bad guy, but just handing them out like we do now is absurd. It is typically difficult and expensive to buy a gun on the black market, and states that have enacted such laws have seen significant reductions in homicide rates, according to Everytown For Gun Safety Research. The Minnesota House passed the legislation last year, and it is well past time for the Senate to follow suit. Law-abiding citizens are fine, but we don’t want “everybody” to have guns.
MinnPost welcomes original letters from readers on current topics of general interest. Interested in joining the conversation? Submit your letter to the editor. The choice of letters for publication is at the discretion of MinnPost editors; they will not be able to respond to individual inquiries about letters.