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Minnesota’s gun-control advocates focus on ‘successes,’ despite disappointing legislative session

MinnPost file photo by James Nord
Rabbi Amy Eilberg of Jewish Community Action addressing Minnesota Gun Violence Prevention Coalition protesters at a May 2013 Capitol rally.

Given the outcome of the legislative session, the tone of Tuesday night’s meeting sponsored by Protect Minnesota was surprising.

Heather Martens, who leads the organization that long has been a force for advocating for stricter gun-control laws, urged the 23 people who attended the North Minneapolis meeting to think about the “successes” that came out of the session.

On first blush, that may seem like a hard thing to do, given that gun-rights organizations got all they wanted: No universal background checks, no limits on magazine capacities, no assault rifle bans. And by the end of session, cowed legislators refused to even have a floor vote on anything resembling major gun-law change.

So where’s the success in all of this?

Martens told the group there was victory in the bipartisan support for $1 million to fund a law that requires the state to file data with the feds on those who should be prohibited from owning firearms.

The law requiring the state to file the data was passed in 2009 but was never funded, essentially making it useless.

Then, she asked those attending the meeting — representatives of various groups supporting stricter gun laws — to break into pairs, come up with successes and report back to the group.

Heather Martens
MinnPost photo by Doug GrowHeather Martens, standing, told the group there was victory in the bipartisan support for $1 million to fund a law that requires the state to file data with the feds on those who should be prohibited from owning firearms.

Positives

The successes:

  • Phone-banking (more than 1,000 calls to legislators sitting on the fence).
  • “Great” testifiers in support of gun control.
  • Media coverage was complete.
  • Protect Minnesota became an umbrella organization for a number of other groups supporting stricter gun laws.
  • Insights from meeting gun-rights’ supporters at hearings. (“I came to understand the opposition,’’ said Linda Windsor, adding with a laugh, “and it rocked my world.”)

 And the most important success?

Jane Kay
MinnPost photo by Doug GrowJane Kay

“We built a coalition,” said Sami Rahamim, son of the owner of Accent Signage who was one of six killed at the Minneapolis company last September.

Members of the group nodded in approval. Despite the disappointment of the session, they’re not going away.

Jane Kay, who heads the Twin Cities chapter of Moms Demand Action, the national organization formed in the wake of the Sandy Hook carnage, insists the disappointment of the session and Washington’s inability to pass gun restrictions won’t defuse the energy of the organization.

“We understand that change takes time,” she said. “We understand we’re here for a marathon. If nothing else, mothers are persistent.”

After dealing with the successes of the session, the group was asked to again break into pairs and talk about the obstacles they must overcome.

Negatives

 The challenges:

  • Sami Rahamim
    MinnPost photo by Doug GrowSami Rahamim
    Mobilizing the faith community. (Ron Letnes, a minister for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, told the group to imagine the power of  600,000 Lutherans involved in the cause.)
  • Finding a “visceral” message, one that appeals to the emotions as well as the intellect.
  • Making the movement stronger beyond the metro area.
  • Continuing to reach out to hunters and those in law enforcement.
  • Making legislators “fear” gun-control advocates more than they fear the NRA and the gun-rights supporters.

This type of low-budget meeting — a few Little Caesars pizzas represented the finger food at the dinner-hour session — have been held throughout the metro area.

It was Rahamim, the young man who has become a national advocate, who talked of how important these small groups have been to him and his mother and the movement.

“This has been an amazing six months for me and my mother,” he told the gathering.

 “People like you — that’s been the biggest takeaway for us. Just to connect with you has meant so much. You give us hope for good in the world. There’s genuine empathy and commitment in this room.”

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Anthony Hahn on 06/05/2013 - 11:15 am.

    Heather Martens

    How can you report Heather Martens taking credit for being a part of a bi-partisan legislation when it has been widely reported that she vehemently opposed it?????

  2. Submitted by Bryan Strawser on 06/05/2013 - 01:13 pm.

    Not supported by the public

    Protect Minnesota’s campaign in 2013 at the legislature consisted of gun bans, laws that provided for confiscation, restrictions on law abiding gun owners, laws to punish law abiding gun owners for minor transgressions, and even a law that would require gun owners to let the Sheriff’s Department inspect their homes each year for “safe storage” compliance.

    What they opposed at the legislature was a bi-partisan bill with so many co-sponsors (from both parties) that it would have easily passed – that actually contained measures that have been proven to work in other states and cities. This bill never even got a hearing.

    You credit Protect MN with a “win” for a law that was passed on a day that they weren’t even at the legislature – a law that the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance helped to support and pass.

    The reason their agenda failed is because it lacks any sort of popular support. This meeting is a fine example of this – with 23 folks that showed up. Compare this to the hundreds upon hundreds of law abiding citizens that came from all over Minnesota, taking time away from their families and jobs, to show that they were opposed to the gun bans being proposed by this group.

    The gun owners weren’t funded by anyone. No out of state money, just ordinary citizens coming to take part in the democratic process.

    Here’s the real story that you keep missing in MinnPost:
    – How many members does Protect Minnesota or Moms Demand Action actually have in Minnesota?
    – Who funds their organization? Is it ordinary law abiding citizens in this state – or out of state organizations like Mayors Against Illegal Guns (Michael Bloomberg’s organization) and the Joyce Foundation?
    – If gun control has such popular support in Minnesota – why was Protect Minnesota outnumbered 800-15 on the first day of legislative hearings this year?
    – How did the MN Gun Owner’s Civil Rights Alliance – an organization made up of volunteers, with thousands of members but no professional staff or lobbyists, and no out of state money manage to defeat all of this “highly popular” legislation? I look forward to your profile of this organization.

    Bryan

  3. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 06/05/2013 - 03:23 pm.

    Rahamim’s Company

    I certainly feel for the family of the victims at that shooting, but as a former police officer who has moved on to achieve a PhD in Human Resources, I have reviewed that shooting many times. It is classical case of an employer created event. Everything surrounding the termination and pre-termination of the shooter was handled incorrectly. The company did not have a single HR Resource to assist in dealing with the employee. By HR Resource I mean an EAP program, an HR Manager or Consultant. Accent Signage Management ignored all the outward signs of a troubled employee for months and then on a Thursday they call him into an office, in front of other employees and fired him. There were indications that he was going to be fired days before, but instead of taking action, the termination was left to linger until the employee figured it out. Even the day of the termination he was allowed to work and given free reign of the building. I am firmly convinced that this shooting could have been prevented had Accent Signage invested a few dollars in expert help.

  4. Submitted by Marc Olivier on 06/05/2013 - 04:08 pm.

    RE: Gun Control

    Representative Michael Paymar took over a spate of totalitarian, draconian, un-Constitutional gun control bills actually authored by Heather Martens. Ms. Martens got the House to hear the bills by having another Representative take ownership of them, when in fact, that Representative hadn’t read the bills, and publicly said as much.

    Recently, Rep. Paymar made comments to the media about violence, the Legislative session, and gun control. In the article, he admitted there are many facets to the issue of violence, and violence involving the use of guns. There are factors involving family upbringing, social milieu, income and housing, domestic situations, street crime and mental health, which he acknowledged.

    Rep. Paymar, and gun control advocates, collectively refused to acknowledge the growing catalog of government-established facts and statistics, that show an inverse relationship between legal gun ownership and the number of criminal acts where guns were involved (gun ownership has increased since 2004, while crime rates have dropped over the same period). Rep. Paymar, and gun control advocates, collectively refused to acknowledge long-time-known, government-established facts and statistics, that show the majority of violent crimes are committed by a relative handful of repeat offenders, who, in certain jurisdictions, get break after break, causing much damage in between periods of incarceration. A local TV station did a follow-up story on one such incident, where 3 repeat violent offenders broke into the wrong house looking for drugs and killed a man.

    The last point is of particular importance to this entire response, and the article, because under federal law, a felon illegally in possession of a firearm faces stiff penalties upon conviction. But prosecutors and judges do not charge and sentence under this federal law very often. As for background checks, fraudulently completed applications for gun purchases/permits (Form ATF 4473) are also subject to federal felony criminal prosecution and sentencing. But a review of comments by members of Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and even Vice President Joseph Biden, show that they hold detection and prosecution of such crimes beneath contempt and ridicule. Comments and reactions are searchable via the Internet, and viewable on Youtube videos, at last check.

    Rep. Paymar, as I mentioned earlier, did acknowledge many factors play a role in commission of acts of violence. His response was to attempt to impose restrictions and taxation (in the form of fees) upon legal owners of a tool. Here is what I did not see undertaken by Rep. Paymar this past session: 1.) Demand for faster processing by the federal government of veteran’s claims (Minnesota, as well as many other states, has a huge backlog of such claims); 2.) Demand for reconciliation of conflicting data concerning (youth) unemployment, education and a clear course of action to rectify deficiencies; 3.) Demand for PSAs concerning domestic violence and suicide prevention, and even gun storage; 4.) cold, factual cost-based analyses of the benefits of competing interests (for example, funding ongoing, state-wide infrastructure upkeep and maintenance vs. funding of Twin Cities-based arts and sports venues); 5.) an inquiry into the amount of money provided by the Federal government (DHS and DOJ) to the State of Minnesota, particularly the City of Minneapolis, for crime and terrorism control, vs. federal monies for statewide jobs programs (what is it about Minneapolis that makes it such a magnet for this kind of money?).

    I find this point particularly interesting, because the City of Minneapolis cites decreasing crime statistics while they seem to be getting more and more money for crime control. Yet, Minneapolis has had to charge taxpayers $Millions for police overtime for year upon year, for at least the past 5 years; Minneapolis has the worst metropolitan employment rate for minority youth in the country (out of 99 cities studied), and levels of homelessness that prompted State legislators to increase funding to build additional shelters to deal with increasing numbers of homeless people. (I need to again raise the lack of Legislative pressure on the Federal government to deal with the backlog of veterans’ claims, which I suspect has some role in increasing numbers of the homeless). Minority home ownership rates in Minneapolis scrape the bottom of the barrel in comparison to other metropolitan areas, too, as do graduation rates for black youth, the largest population suffering directly from gun violence here. As for mental illness, state bureaucracies got money to process *paperwork* for various registries, but as for getting help to people, I’m left with the impression that not much was accomplished in this area (please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). Lastly, Minnesota, like the rest of the nation, seems intent on participating to a large degree in the “global economy”. Like other news organizations, you choose not to make much of the fact that a key part of the “global economy” is the outflow of dollars from Minnesota, the region and the country. Basic economics teaches that the more money circulates locally, the richer the local economy becomes; the more money leaves the local economy, the worse it does. You should ask how recent legislation boosts the local economy, jobs, mental health resources, domestic abuse and crime abatement programs, infrastructure, home ownership and home improvement, and education focused on science, mathematics, ethics and critical thinking, rather than mere compliance with bureaucratic agendas.

    A lot of legislative resources was spent trying to push through bad legislation. Why don’t you do some investigation into these facts and discrepancies? The factors mentioned in the preceding paragraph all play a role in violent crimes. They are all relevant to your story.

    Here is what I have observed from the non-profit community: 1.) Requests for donations of time and effort from unpaid volunteers, while the “organizers” keep the grant money and the donation money for rents, material and service costs, and their own salaries; 2.) The local public television has broadcasts showing discussions and documentaries concerning hunger, homelessness, veterans, and others facing some type of hardship, trials and tribulations. At the end of these broadcasts, production funding is brought by pretty much the same core groups of donors-many of whom are YOUR donors. As for those service providers directly involved in dealing with issues mentioned, their funding is not quite as clear, from the broadcasts. The effectiveness of their programs, and changes in the needs, and sheer numbers of those needing services, is also, not quite as clear. However, the local public media administrators, especially those at the top, make as much or more than the Governor. Hmm.

    And this brings me to the role of the media in all of this. Sources of traumatic injury and death are many and varied. A lot of this involves person-on-person interaction. I’ll repeat this: A lot of traumatic injury and death involves person-on-person interaction. Government-established facts and statistics show vehicle accidents resulting in death outnumber deaths as a result of firearms. Vehicle-related deaths as a result of distracted driving (i.e., texting) are increasing to levels rivaling those resulting from alcohol and drug impairment. (The obvious approach to alleviate this would seem to be outlawing *all* operational sources of texting and communication in vehicles, all driving while under the influence of *any* drugs and alcohol, at any level; annual vehicle and driver skills testing; additional fees by all establishments selling alcohol, and mobile communications devices going directly to special insurance funds to cover costs of injuries, fatalities and clean-up. Such would be legal and Constitutional, as there are no Constitutional protections for vehicle ownership and operation, *nor* partaking in mood-altering, judgment-impairing substances. The same cannot be said of gun ownership and due process rights).

    There is no doubt, guns play a huge role in the commission of crimes. But all crimes are committed by people. And many, many violent, fatal crimes don’t involve the use of firearms at all. Media has enjoyed a unique roll in all of this. Not a single 24-hour period can pass in which violence *isn’t* presented as a viable solution to somebody’s problems. Nearly every night, a gun is drawn and fired, and somebody’s perceived problems are resolved. Maybe a whole new set of problems engages upon this shooting, maybe not.

    Whether or not these are fictional depictions almost doesn’t matter. What matters is the sheer repetition. Repetition is a key part of the human learning process. Deny it at risk of losing all credibility. But, to shorten things up, I allege that the media pimps violence, discord and dysfunction. For the ratings, the ad revenue, the money. I have personally observed news media people editorialize reporting, misrepresent or omit facts and statistics, and stories and incidents. And sandwiched in between news broadcasts is more violence, often involving firearms. Violence and commercials, which benefits the media.

    I wish to draw particular attention to your donor list, being that you, MinnPost, list yourself as a non-profit. Included in your list of donors is Chicago-based Joyce Foundation. The Joyce Foundation (whose former board members include Pres. Barack Obama) has played a large role in gun control and criminal justice legislation and politics, in the Chicago area for many years. We all now know about murders in Chicago, the gang problem, and the recidivism rate concerning violent offenders. Recently, we learned of the role corrupt cops played in torturing inmates to get confessions and convictions, all while the numbers of murders and assaults with guns grew year by year. Some cops were later tried and convicted and sentenced to minimal stints in prison. I don’t know what, if any role the Joyce Foundation had in uncovering this travesty of justice, or in getting non-violent drug offenders treatment instead of incarceration, or in keeping violent offenders locked up. I’m not finding the Joyce Foundation having much to do with the Innocence Project, although I did find they put out a lot of money to influence legislative agendas there and elsewhere. I do know what role Heather Martens played in drafting legislation against law-abiding citizens that called for gun registration, gun confiscation, and warrant-less searches of private property by law enforcement officers “to determine safe gun storage practices.” I do know Ms. Martens has aligned herself to a local group who is opposed to longer sentencing for violent, repeat offenders and especially those who violate gun laws. I do know Heather Martens receives funding from the Joyce Foundation, as do you. I do notice a complete absence of information as to where the Joyce Foundation gets its money, how its coffers are replenished. I do notice that you failed to report these facts in your story. I do note that you excluded any mention of the role Ms. Martens played in Rep. Paymar’s refusal to hear a gun control bill that had the bipartisan backing of some 70 Minnesota House members, thereby killing the bill in committee. Why? Why not even a word about the role of the Joyce Foundation in both Chicago and Minnesota politics?

    Because of your lack of candor that you share funding sources with Heather Martens, and because you chose to slant your story by deliberately omitting input from those opposed to Heather Martens, her agenda and her tactics, you provide a living example of media bias. I will reprint this response to your story in other venues in hopes of reaching a broader range of persons who may not be as biased as you, and who have a greater capacity to absorb and process information than you give your readers credit for doing. I won’t have to make a superhuman effort; others of a like mind are doing the same. The more people discover and accept that MinnPost embraces and exploits media bias for the agenda of your donors, the less reach and influence you will have. And the more resentment you will build against yourself, and quite possibly your donors. Much has been made of polls concerning gun control, yet very little in-depth investigation was done as to how the polls were constructed, conducted and interpreted. Have you considered doing a poll, just for your own information, as to how manipulative tactics plays among voters (and also, consumers) when they discover they’re being “had”?

  5. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/05/2013 - 08:45 pm.

    Thank you for your rant, Mr. LaPierre

    “. . . . given that gun-rights organizations got all they wanted: No universal background checks, no limits on magazine capacities, no assault rifle bans. And by the end of session, cowed legislators refused to even have a floor vote on anything resembling major gun-law change.”

    That’s a fact. What’s your beef?

  6. Submitted by Terry Elliott on 06/06/2013 - 09:33 am.

    I think one sentence should be amended to read “Heather Martens, who leads the organization that long has been a force for advocating for stricter gun-control laws”, but without a single legislative victory to her credit.

    Nevertheless she and her “emotion-driven” colleagues are regularly featured in articles such as this. Lost in the statistics about the “1,000 calls to fence-sitters” is the truth that shooting sports enthusiasts, hunters, competition shooters, and gun owners in general turned out to the hearings en mass. Legislators said letters and calls were 50 and 100 to 1 against passing these draconian laws that would have made criminals out of us for loaning a hunting rifle to a buddy without going through 2 sheriffs and paying 2 fees and asking the government for permission.

    Why was the turnout so spectacular? Were we paid by big-money NRA lobbyists? No, we mobilized because the Heather Martens of the world use a tragedy in Connecticut as the excuse to push their long-standing goal of taking away others’ Constitutional rights.

    The success of law-abiding Minnesota citizens was the story, but as usual Doug Grow doesn’t have the stomach to write it.

    Terry Elliott

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/06/2013 - 02:08 pm.

      “Draconian laws”?

      I hadn’t heard that there were any proposals to make loaning your rifle to a hunting buddy a crime. Maybe that was because there weren’t any.

      Maybe you’re referring to the proposal for background checks for gun sales and closing the gun show loophole and some other modest proposals to keep dangerous weapons out the hands of the violence prone? Very Draconian that. I suppose it would be if you’re a person who’s subject to a restraining order for making death threats and you can’t buy a gun before somebody checks that out.

      The public polls showed and still show the public overwhelmingly in favor of reasonable regulations on weapon sales, including universal background checks. I suspect Ms. Martens appears to be more of a single force than she really is because there are far fewer fanatical, emotion driven gun control advocates than there are fanatical, emotion driven gun rights advocates. As with many things in life, victory comes to those who show up and in this session, the gun rights crowd, a minority, whipped into a frenzy by NRA disinformation and propaganda, bombarded their representatives with letters and calls opposing fictitious legislative proposals.

      Maybe some of these proposals will not stop another Sandy Hook Massacre of first graders by another gun nut. But it can’t hurt. The Sandy Hook massacre was only the most recent and appalling example of gun-related violence that goes unreported every day, every hour in the US. The incidence of gun violence in the US is at a level that exists nowhere else in the world outside of war zones like Baghdad, Beirut or Damascus. And the public is supposed to believe the gun lobby that this unprecedented incidence of gun related violence is because there aren’t enough guns?

      • Submitted by Bryan Strawser on 06/07/2013 - 07:25 pm.

        “I hadn’t heard that there were any proposals to make loaning your rifle to a hunting buddy a crime. Maybe that was because there weren’t any.”

        There was a proposal to do exactly that. There was testimony against it in both the House and the Senate. You can go see the original text of the bills (SF458, for example) along with the testimony on the legislature website.

        “I suspect Ms. Martens appears to be more of a single force than she really is because there are far fewer fanatical, emotion driven gun control advocates than there are fanatical, emotion driven gun rights advocates.”

        Really? Because I saw tons of facts entered into evidence by gun rights supporters – and plenty of emotion without facts from the gun banners.

        Not to mention the multiple times individuals from Protect Minnesota attempted to cause a scene with gun rights supporters outside of the hearing rooms.

        “As with many things in life, victory comes to those who show up and in this session, the gun rights crowd, a minority, whipped into a frenzy by NRA disinformation and propaganda, bombarded their representatives with letters and calls opposing fictitious legislative proposals.”

        Gun bans, restrictions on law abiding citizens, attempts to make gun permit holders felons, attempts to repeal state firearms law preemption, bans on commonly used hunting weapons – none of these were fictitious this session.

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