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What gun victims would do about gun violence

MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Shooting survivor Tyron Jenkins: “People would have to have mental stability to own or purchase a gun.”

Fear and hyperbole often consume the debate about guns in America.

That doesn’t sit right with Mary Streufert. In June 1991, Streufert’s daughter Carin was walking down the street in Grand Rapids sometime after midnight when she was kidnapped, then raped, shot and killed by two men. Carin Streufert was 18 when she died.

Carin Streufert
Courtesy of Mary Streufert
Carin Streufert

“The thing that bothers me most is that we don’t talk about the victims,” said Mary Streufert, 67, who now lives in Duluth. “We talk about guns, gun control, gun rights – but we never talk about the victims. Those bullets, those numbers are people. People who belong to other people, to families. They’re not just numbers.”

What keeps Streufert going, and what caused her to become active in the anti-gun-violence movement, are the stories of those victims, she said. “There’s a voice that’s just not being heard.”

“If we were losing a natural resource like our iron ore or our water as fast we’re losing our human resources to gun violence, there would be an outcry,” Streufert said. “People would go crazy. But if it’s about guns, people just say, oh, yeah, well.”

Today, Streufert is co-president of the Duluth-based chapter of Protect Minnesota, a St. Paul-based nonprofit that seeks to end gun violence. (Protect Minnesota receives funding from The Joyce Foundation, a Chicago-based foundation that also supports MinnPost’s reporting on gun violence prevention, the environment and effective democracy.) 

As part of an ongoing series examining the gun cultures in Minnesota, I wanted to examine consequences of gun violence, talking to those whose lives have been permanently altered by firearms, either after losing a family member or surviving gun violence themselves.

Those I talked to are not a monolithic group. Some, like Streufert, grew up around guns. Others didn’t. Most favored legislation that would require a background check of every person who seeks to buy a gun, some want policies more effective at keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. And yet, despite their experiences, not a single one believed that taking guns away from gun owners was a solution to gun violence. Indeed, with a single exception, they all said they were anti-gun violence, not anti-gun.

Barbara Lund
Courtesy of Joan Peterson
Barbara Lund

“To think we are requiring people to obtain a license to drive a car, to adopt a dog and to become a teacher, but we’re not doing background checks of every person who buys a gun,” said Joan Peterson, who serves as co-president of Protect Minnesota Duluth chapter with Streufert. The group serves as the region’s base for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. 

Peterson lost her sister, Barbara Lund, in 1992 after Lund’s estranged and mentally ill husband shot and killed her in Minnetonka. 

In May, Gov. Mark Dayton signed a law that prohibits people convicted of certain child or domestic abuse charges from possessing guns. Those subject to an order of protection will lose their ability to possess a gun at least temporarily, though such legislation likely wouldn’t have helped Lund, since the couple had been separated for several years. 

“We regulate other dangers in our society to protect public health,” she said. “We do it with seatbelts, baby seats in cars and no-smoking laws in restaurants. To not try with guns is ridiculous.”

‘You’re gonna heal fine.’

Tyron Jenkins, 22, of North Minneapolis has twice survived gunshot wounds. The first time he was shot was when he was just 9 years old, sitting at his kitchen table eating dinner by himself on the South Side of Chicago. An errant bullet flew through the wall of his house and hit him in the leg. The second time was three years ago in North Minneapolis, while he sitting in the back seat of a parked car. As with the first time Jenkins was shot, the shooter was targeting somebody else.

He suffered damage to his pancreas, lung, back, stomach and chest, injuries so severe that Jenkins often still has trouble standing.

“‘You’re gonna heal fine,’ (the doctor) said when I left (North Memorial Medical Center),” Jenkins said. But that didn’t happen, and his chronic pain has hampered his efforts to find work.

This spring, worried that his 16-year-old brother was living a life that would also see him succumb to gun violence, Jenkins accepted an invitation from a community mentor to attend a rally at the state Capitol during the legislative session.

“I seen it replaying itself, the road he was on,” Jenkins said of his brother. “He was more than likely to be in a situation like (mine) if he was to continue.”

After the rally, Jenkins was invited to attend a June summit on domestic violence and guns in Washington, D.C, where he met Protect Minnesota’s Peterson and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and saw U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, whom he had met before. “It was awesome,” Jenkins said. He and Ellison discussed the possibility of an internship in the congressman’s office, but Jenkins said he needed to focus on finding a job to support his five-year-old son. 

When asked what single policy he would put in place to curtail gun violence if he had the power, Jenkins offered a succinct response: “Mental health.”

“People would have to have mental stability to own or purchase a gun.”

‘I’m not trying to keep guns away from people.’

Diane Sellgren, 59, of St. Louis Park, said she didn’t know her second husband was mentally ill and suffered from depression when she married him in 1979.

His psychological issues, though, were so severe that it caused Sellgren to take his gun away from him twice – once with the help of her father-in-law and once with the help of the police.

The first time, in 1983, she was worried about her husband’s state of mind — and her children’s safety — so she gave her husband’s gun to her father-in-law. Enraged, her husband simply bought another gun.

The second time occurred the following year, in 1984, when Sellgren called the police due to her husband’s depression. Against his will, her husband was hospitalized by law-enforcement officials, who also took his gun, she said. But he was allowed to leave the hospital within 72 hours and regained his firearm, Sellgren said. 

“Back then, domestic violence, mental illness, suicide – those were things that were not discussed. That was something you stuck under the rug,” Sellgren said. 

She put up with his verbal and emotional abuse for six more years, until one day in 1985 when he pointed a gun at her head. “I don’t know where I got the strength or why he decided not to take me with him, but I took my four children and went to a neighbor’s house. When my neighbor and I returned several hours later, we found he had committed suicide.”

Sellgren’s voice becomes urgent and emphatic when the conversation turns to keeping guns away from those who need psychiatric care. “People with mental illness and severe depression should not be allowed to purchase a gun… maybe never,” she said. “These are the people doing the mass shootings.”

And committing suicide. In 2011, Sellgren’s 31-year-old daughter, Angela Frankenberry, was able to pass a background check and purchase a gun, despite many weeks-long hospitalizations for mental illness and severe depression. Sellgren said Frankenberry was so out of sorts at the time that she had abandoned her 11-year-old daughter and was sleeping in her car in a gas-station parking lot.

Angela Frankenberry, second from the right, in a family photo.
Courtesy of Diane Sellgren
Angela Frankenberry, second from the right, in a family photo.

Minnesota law prohibits possession of firearms by those a judge determines is mentally ill, though those people may appeal that ruling. But in Frankenberry’s case, the doctor visits, the medications, the hospitalizations – none of it showed up on the background check, Sellgren said. On July 5, 2011, Frankenberry checked into a hotel, put a gun in her mouth and ended her life.

A week later Sellgren became an anti-gun violence activist. She began emailing President Obama, Vice President Biden and U.S. senators and representatives, and started to make appointments with Minnesota lawmakers, mayors and police chiefs.

In February 2013, she testified during state legislative hearings on a bill that would set up voluntary registration for those with mental illness. The bill failed to get out of committee.

Sellgren recalled how one man pleaded, “’Please don’t make me choose between my gun and getting help.’”

“I’m not trying to keep guns away from people who should be allowed to have them,” she said. “I want sensible gun laws. In Minnesota, if you have epilepsy, you can’t drive until you’re seizure-free for six months. I don’t see how what I’m advocating with guns violates civil rights any more than that law.”

‘This is not a Republican or Democratic issue.’

Other advocates, though, believe that comprehensive-background checks are key to reducing gun violence. “A background check for every gun, I think, will have biggest impact on saving lives,” said Colin Goddard, 28.

Under Minnesota law, police or sheriff personnel conduct background checks on those who apply for a permit to buy a gun. Under federal law, licensed firearms dealers check a national database to ensure the potential buyer is not prohibited from buying a gun.

But anti-gun violence activists say buyers and sellers of firearms consistently avoid background checks via gun shows and on the Internet. Federal law does not require private individuals to conduct a background check of buyers. And websites exist where sellers do not conduct background checks.

Goddard suffered gunshot injuries to his left knee, left hip, right hip and right shoulder during the 2007 Virginia Tech attack in which a single gunman killed 32 people, the deadliest mass shooting of its kind since 1965. 

Colin Goddard
Photo by Christina Rizk
Colin Goddard

“This is not a Republican or Democratic issue,” said Goddard, who works on the state legislative team for Every Town for Gun Safety, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that seeks to end gun violence. “We hope to have a working relationship with both parties.”

After the Virginia Tech shootings, Goddard said his immediate priority was to get out of the area – to get away from the issue of gun violence.

So he got an internship in Madagascar, where “I was just some dude with a cane,” Goddard said. “No one knew me. Virginia Tech meant nothing to people there, yet it was the biggest deal for me. It put things in perspective.”

A combination of events led him to enter the gun debate, Goddard said. Among them was learning that the Virginia-Tech gunman was legally prohibited from owning a gun due to his history of being mental-illness. But because he was designated a mental-health outpatient, the gunman’s files did not appear in the background check, Goddard said. “Something as simple as a file transfer could have altered the series of events (that led to the massacre),” he said.

Another event was the April 2009 mass shooting at an immigration center in Binghamton, New York, during which 14 people died. After that, said Goddard, “I thought, I gotta figure out if there’s a place for me in this.” So he called up the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and got an internship. 

“This is the issue of our time,” Goddard said of comprehensive background checks. “It’s only a matter of time. We have public opinion on our side.”

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Comments (43)

  1. Submitted by Kenny Christenson on 07/07/2014 - 10:48 am.

    You need to expand your view

    If you are going to research the Gun Culture, you need to look at competitive shooting and hunting. You should look at the new Minnesota High school Trap Teams! Trap shooting is the fastest growing high school sport in Minnesota.
    You should also spend some time in a duck or goose blind and a tree stand. You are getting a very narrow view of the Gun Culture. There is a lot more to the Gun Culture than carry permits or gun violence.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/07/2014 - 12:46 pm.

    l”Every Town for Gun Safety” is revision 3 of Michael Bloomberg’s attempt at astroturfing away the 2nd amendment.

    Bloomberg has been quoted several times in favor of a complete disarming of American citizens. That is his idea of common sense gun control.

    I’m all in favor of balanced reporting, but full disclosure and truth are more important, in my opinion. Which brings up the question: Has Minnpost received money from any of Bloomberg’s several front groups?

  3. Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 07/07/2014 - 01:32 pm.

    Did he succeed

    Did Bloomberg succeed in his evil plot to take away your guns. Nope. Is he in a position to make that happen, maybe, since corporations are people, and he has a boat load of money to use at his discretion to attempt to change the laws he deems unworthy.

    There was disclosure in this article, unless of course you only saw the headline and chose to comment, you know, without actually having read it (typical fare for the oppressed).

    Or, maybe you like the fact so many people die from guns each year – if only guns err, people, killed like cars do, then we would be talkin.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/07/2014 - 03:00 pm.

    Read it once, read it again. But maybe I missed it while dreaming of people getting killed with guns.

    Maybe you can point out where Bloomberg’s money is disclosed.

    • Submitted by Matt Touchette on 07/07/2014 - 04:07 pm.

      While maybe not directly Bloomberg’s money, there was some disclosure of funding for this series of articles:

      “(Protect Minnesota receives funding from The Joyce Foundation, a Chicago-based foundation that also supports MinnPost’s reporting on gun violence prevention, the environment and effective democracy.)”

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/07/2014 - 03:33 pm.

    Ostrich reproduction

    I see the Ostriches are out in full force.

    I won’t be surprised if they continue to influence public opinion for quite a while – hysteria and dark threats are the meat-and-potatoes of demagogues, and that’s essentially what we’re dealing with on this issue. Some of that comes from the left, but far more of it comes from the right, and Mr. Swift, Mr. Christenson and Mr. Strawser do no one any favors by burying their heads in the sand while squawking in an effort to distract the rest of us from the carnage going on all around us.

    It’s not just ridiculous, it’s crazy that I need a license to teach, or drive a car or truck, or, for heaven’s sake, to cut someone’s hair, but nothing of the sort is required to purchase an implement whose sole purpose is to do harm. That’s C-R-A-Z-Y. It’s ipso facto evidence of a kind of cultural or societal mental illness.

    I own multiple firearms, handguns and long guns, small caliber and large, modern and antique. I’ve even built a few from parts. I’ve hunted, shot at targets and “plinked” for much of my adult life. Suggesting that firearms purchase require a background check should be a no-brainer, a common-sense, practical and thoroughly constitutional means of improving public health by reducing access to weapons on the part of those who’ve already proven their instability, or acquired a history of criminal behavior, or shown their outright danger to the general public.

    I’ve never been shot, but I agree completely with Colin Goddard. This isn’t – or shouldn’t be – a Republican vs. Democrat issue. It’s a public safety issue. Background checks won’t guarantee that there won’t be other attacks – there are millions of guns in this country already – but we shouldn’t let perfection be the enemy of the very good. We’ve reached the point where almost as many die each year from gunshots as do from automobile crashes, yet we require licenses for drivers, but nothing for gun owners.

    If there are historians in a century or two, they will be appalled by the head-in-the-sand response of the NRA and its allies to thousands of deaths every year by firearms.

    • Submitted by Bryan Strawser on 07/07/2014 - 04:59 pm.

      A couple comments.First,

      A couple comments.

      First, teaching, driving a car or truck, or cutting someone’s hair is not a constitutionally protected activity. The ownership of a firearm for self-defense purposes is a specific, enumerated right under the United States Constitution. Putting a license in place is likely an undue burden – after all, we don’t require licenses for speaking, writing, the practice or worship of religion, or other constitutionally protected activities.

      Second, under current law, Minnesota requires a permit to purchase or a permit to carry to purchase a handgun or certain “assault weapons” from a dealer. So there is a licensing scheme in place – one that allows law enforcement to deny said permit on the grounds that they may be a danger to them selves or others. There are due process in rights to protect abuse by law enforcement, etc.

      Finally, I only *wish* buying a firearm was like buying a car. I could buy a firearm anywhere, in any state, and bring it home. I could purchase online and pickup in my driveway. No background check at point of sale, all models would be legal, my permit to carry would be honored by all other states.

      I suspect that’s not really what you want, but most gun owners would be pretty happy with that.

      • Submitted by Joan Peterson on 07/07/2014 - 07:41 pm.

        permits to purchase and background checks

        Mr.Strawser is only telling part of the truth about Minnesota law. There is no background check required by private sellers in Minnesota at gun shows, on internet sites such as Armslist.com or at flea markets and other venues where guns are sold. Further, the second amendment allows for reasonable gun laws so the right is not unfettered. Justice Scalia made that clear in the 2008 Heller decision. So background checks are constitutional. In fact, Brady background checks have been in effect for 20 years but they need to be expanded to private sales to make sure those who are prohibited from purchasing guns can’t buy them anyway. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill another human being or an animal. Requiring more regulations on who can buy one will save lives. Guns are not like other consumer products.

        It’s actually quite revealing that Mr. Strawser says he would be happy if he could buy a gun anywhere and any time he wants with no background check. That means that a felon could do the same. So could a domestic abuser. So could someone adjudicated mentally ill. Is this what we want? I don’t think so. A little inconvenience for buying a gun is nothing compared to that of burying a loved one, or getting shot or being threatened with a gun. And Strawser is wrong about what most gun owners would be happy about since the majority of them, including 75% of NRA members agree with background checks on all gun sales. It is the gun extremists who believe, as Mr. Strawser is saying, that anything goes when it comes to guns and gun rights.

        • Submitted by Bryan Strawser on 07/08/2014 - 06:39 am.

          I was quite honest about the content of Minnesota law – because I referenced licensed dealers.

          You are correct that Minnesota law does not require a background check in a private transaction. However, firearms cannot be bought and sold over the internet – the transaction must still happen in person, and if the transaction crosses state lines, the transaction must happen at a licensed dealer.

          There are some exceptions to this for other federal firearms license holders, such as curio and relic collectors, etc.

          My response to the previous poster’s comparison to guns and cars was intended as satire. The comparison between licensing a vehicle or driver and licensing firearms is not at all a good comparison.

          Owning a firearm for self-defense is a constitutional right in this country – owning or driving a vehicle is not.

          Whenever a gun control proponent talks about vehicle/driver licensing against firearms ownership licensing, or lack thereof, it generally demonstrates their lack of knowledge of firearms laws – because if we really treated guns like cars or drivers, I do not think they (or you, for that matter) would be happy with that outcome whatsoever.

          In terms of your poll, you’ve quoted 75% and 90% recently – which is correct? Our own polling of gun owners in Minnesota shows them highly opposed to these schemes – because criminals aren’t going to follow that law.

          In any event, the more folks learn about what’s actually in your universal registration (err, background check) bills – the more they oppose them.

          As far as keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals and the adjudicated mentally ill – I agree that the focus should be on them rather than on the inanimate object – the firearm.

          It’s unfortunate that your organization’s focus has been on restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens and increasing the burden on the exercise of that right – rather than where it belongs – on the violent criminal and the adjudicated mentally ill.

          Your organization strongly opposed Representative Hilstrom’s bill in 2013 – which would have done much to keep guns out of the hands of bad actors – instead you focused on limiting hunting rifles, restricting standard capacity magazines, calling for inspections of the homes of law-abiding gun owners annually by the county sheriff, firearm registration, creating new penalties for permit holders, and confiscation.

          • Submitted by Joan Peterson on 07/08/2014 - 07:33 am.

            in response

            Yes indeed Mr. Strawser, guns can be bought over the Internet with no background check. Check out Armslist.com and click on Minnesota. You will find private sellers advertising guns for sale. All that is required is that the buyer and seller connect some place to make the sale. No background check required. The same is true on Facebook where buyers and sellers can connect through the site and meet somewhere to make the exchange. According to the Republican pollster Frank Luntz in 2 different polls, 75% of NRA members favor background checks. 90% of the total responders support background checks. That is consistent with all other polls done on this issue.

            If we treated guns like cars, people would have to have a license to operate one and register it with the state government. Buying a car requires hours if not days of paperwork and proof of insurance, driver’s license and the ability to pay for the car via a loan or cash. Lots of paper work and approvals required. Not so for guns. This is all for the protection of the seller mostly but to make sure one is legal and can pay for the car. Cars are not designed to kill people. There are accidents with cars that end in the deaths of their occupants. But we have made sure to make cars as safe as we can by requiring everyone, by law, to wear a seat belt. Cars must have air bags and other safety features by law. Why? Because we all pay for the costs of the accidents with our insurance and taxes. The same could be said for guns.

            Requiring a background check on all gun sales will in no way restrict the rights of law abiding gun owners. It will, however, restrict the right of felons, adjudicated mentally ill people, domestic abusers, and others who shouldn’t have guns from getting them. You will have to explain how you, as a law abiding gun owner, would have your rights restricted by having to pass a background check for all sales. Presumably you already get a background check when you purchase through an FFL or get your yearly permit to purchase from law enforcement or your permit to carry. Was that so hard? Did it restrict your right to own that gun?

            The organizations to which I belong are interested in keeping those who shouldn’t have guns from having them anyway along with stronger trafficking laws. We are also interested in changing the conversation about guns and gun violence with the end result that our communities will be safer places for our families. We would love it if you would work with us to that good end.

            • Submitted by Pat Watson on 07/08/2014 - 08:53 am.

              PM not interested in “working together”

              “We would love it if you would work with us to that good end.”

              Joan, with all due respect – you have no interest in working with firearm owners. I personally reached out to you and your organization this spring in Duluth. Your organizer, Shannon, invited me to your event. Having sparred politically with you in the past, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Turned out we had a wonderful and respectful conversation. We left after smiling, shaking hands and coming to consensus on numerous issues. I felt elated that there was really a chance that, working together, we could come to agreement on stemming violence.

              Instead, you chose to go off on a personal rant about my attendance, casting aspersions about my intentions and deliberately misquoting my comments to you and the group on your blog. You went so far as to ridiculously mis-characterize my relationship with my spouse. My requests to you for clarification and correction went unanswered. Someone from your organization did contact me to apologize for your behavior – but I have seen no further response from you personally.

              I’m not hurt as I’ve come to expect this from you, but please don’t try to cast yourself as open and welcoming to “working” together. You so obviously are not.

              Luckily, others are more open to discussion….and less likely to attack personally.

              • Submitted by Joan Peterson on 07/08/2014 - 09:51 am.

                Reply to Pat Watson

                Mr.Watson. The readers here should know that after you and your friend participated in a meeting sponsored by Protect Minnesota, we discovered that your friend had recorded the entire meeting, including personal comments made by the participants. We also discovered that you had done the same at a discussion at a church about gun violence and then criticized the discussion and participants on your blog. Too bad that happened. Had you been sincere about an honest discussion you would not have come with a recording device with the intent to “spy” and then discount the discussion.

                We work with many gun owners who are interested in passing reasonable gun laws and engaging in an honest discussion about the issue.

            • Submitted by Bryan Strawser on 07/08/2014 - 09:44 am.

              “We are also interested in changing the conversation about guns and gun violence with the end result that our communities will be safer places for our families. We would love it if you would work with us to that good end.”

              Oh, come on Joan. You have no interest in an actual conversation.

              – You deliberately censor what is posted as comments for discussion on your website, even when they are written in clear english, use logical arguments, and don’t make personal insults. I have many, many comments of mine that you have never posted – and I’ve never once made a personal insult or used profanity.

              – Your organization, like every other anti-gun organization out there, censors comments on your Facebook page, blocks Facebook posts, blocks Twitter followers, and generally chooses not to engage with anyone not sharing your viewpoint.

              – When we’ve signed up to attend your various “conversation” meetings, we’ve been told specifically not to come – and then when asked about it by the mainstream media, your representatives have been dishonest claiming that “no one was told not to come.”

              The facts are not in favor of your arguments – and thus, your organization resorts to subterfuge, censorship, dishonesty, and manipulation of the facts and media.

              Want to have a conversation? Joan, I’ll debate you anytime in public, with a fair set of rules, and with audio and video recording running. How about it?

              • Submitted by Joan Peterson on 07/08/2014 - 11:40 am.

                comments in web sites,etc

                If anyone has read many of the comments left on various web sites, blogs and articles about gun violence prevention, they will quickly understand why they are blocked or not published. Many of them are rude, offensive, ugly, personal attacks, innuendo, lies, intimidating, sometimes threatening, often inappropriate attacks on victims ( as has happened about my own sister who is now dead), and others. When they are not, they are often published. Facebook pages are meant for those who “like” the group, not for everyone and not necessarily for a back and forth debate.They are meant to educate those who agree and get them activated. In my experience, what happens when the folks on the side of gun rights get going on a Facebook page or comment section is that they take over the discussion and have the back and forth amongst themselves. That is their intent. That is not discussion. It is not possible to have a civil discussion when that happens.

                Discussions can happen in other forums. When events are specifically to get new members for organizations, discuss issues within the organization, organizing members, etc. they are not meant to be debates about the issue. That does make them one-sided. When they are meant to be debates or discussions open to both sides, then both sides will be invited. I don’t believe the gun rights organizations open up their meetings to those on the side of gun violence prevention.

                Discussions are difficult when folks come with recording devices and sometimes openly armed. Debates can get ugly in short order. Meanwhile, it looks like, from this back and forth, that not much is changing. Both sides are dug in. In the end, it will depend on what the folks who are organized on the various sides do about it and what our elected officials decide is reasonable and in the best interest of most of their constituents.

                • Submitted by Pat Watson on 07/08/2014 - 12:29 pm.

                  comments…

                  Joan – if you’re implying I was armed for our discussion in Duluth, I was not. It was your meeting, your church, your rules. I reached out a hand Joan, and you batted it away.

                  I can’t speak for all pro-firearm activists, but you’d be welcome at any event I held as well.

        • Submitted by Kenny Christenson on 07/08/2014 - 05:52 pm.

          Straw purchases for criminals is illegal

          It is illegal to purchase a firearm for a criminal. That means if you buy a gun at a gun show for a criminal, you are already breaking the law.

    • Submitted by Kenny Christenson on 07/08/2014 - 05:49 pm.

      Why background checks don’t work

      I resent being called an ostrich. My original point is if Mr. Cronin wants to learn about the gun culture, he needs to look at competitive shooting and hunting. 99.9% of firearms are used for hunting or competitive shooting. I am not avoiding the background check issue or hiding my head in the sand.
      Since we are talking about background checks, there are four reasons a federal background check system does not work.
      1) Criminals behave like criminals. As long as criminals continue to behave like criminals you will not be able to pass laws that will prevent them from acquiring firearms illegally.
      2) You don’t always know who is mentally ill. There are state and federal laws to protect the identity of persons who are mentally ill. It is not the gun lobby you have to fight on this one; it is the mental health lobby.
      3) Maintaining a current and complete federal database of all persons with protection orders or mental health issues, or a history of violent crime is impossible. There isn’t a way to collect the data. The database will never be up to date or complete. The problem is just too big to be handled appropriately.
      4) There are over 300,000,000 firearms in this country and the number is increasing daily. As long as there are 300,000,000 + firearms you will never be able to prevent someone from acquiring a firearm illegally.

      • Submitted by jody rooney on 07/11/2014 - 10:27 am.

        I don’t think many people have a problem with sport

        shooting be it hunting or trap. It is your hysterical support of all types of guns. Be sensible. Machine guns and sawed off shot guns are either highly regulated or illegal. Not all firearms are acceptable.

        Unless sportsman separate themselves from the “I have to carry a gun to feel important” crowd they are going to get caught in a crossfire so to speak.

        By the way the CDC’s data shows that approximately half the people that were killed by far arms were aiming at themselves.

      • Submitted by Brent Gurtek on 07/11/2014 - 12:58 pm.

        about sport shooting activities

        Kenny, et al,

        There’s a good chance that Mike Cronin will delve into hunting, target shooting, etc, and then write about those pursuits in this string of articles he’s doing here. But we’ll have to see.

  6. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/07/2014 - 07:38 pm.

    More Ostrich feathers

    First, voting is a constitutionally protected activity. Yet voters must register, check in with duly appointed clerks at the polling place when casting a ballot, and – if some folks have their way – produce a photo ID to ensure that they’re entitled to cast a ballot. Allow me to argue that the potential for fatal consequences of voting are rather less than that of pulling the trigger on a firearm.

    Second, Minnesota does, indeed, have such a permit system, which I’ve used myself. One might ask why this system – a licensing scheme by Mr. Stawser’s own admisstion – has been allowed, if licensing is such an onerous and undue burden. The answer is that the SCOTUS has repeatedly ruled that the 2nd Amendment has… wait for it… limits. We’re not living in the Minnesota of 1814. The state’s population mostly lives in towns and cities now, and limits to the carry and use of firearms are considered by most to be sensible.

    Beyond that, of course, Mr. Strawser’s final point is somewhat irrelevant. The issue here is less about *purchase* and more about *operation,* but I have to admit, the vision of anyone, at any time, being able to purchase a gun anywhere, including online, without any sort of background check at all, may be a his fantasy, but it’s a nightmare for a good many others. Of *course* gun owners would be happy with wherein there are literally no restrictions on purchase or carry. That is, until some of the zealots found themselves visiting hospitals and funeral homes because loved ones who might not be crack shots with combat training were ending up as victims. The desire for revenge might hard to suppress, and if it isn’t – well, look at Chicago over the 4th of July weekend if there weren’t enough dead and wounded on Minneapolis’ North Side.

    Welcome to the Paleolithic.

  7. Submitted by Joan Peterson on 07/08/2014 - 09:44 am.

    Working together

    Mr.Watson. The readers here should know that you and a friend traveled several hours to,attend a training session sponsored by Protect Minnesota. You participated in the discussion and we had some agreement. The problem is that later we discovered that your friend had recorded the whole meeting and that you had done this at a meeting at another church which you wrote about on your blog with the purpose to criticize the participants and discount the discussion. It’s hard to work with people who,are not sincere about the discussion.

    We are working with reasonable gun owners who are interested in the honest discussion and believe we need to pass some laws to prevent people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them.

    • Submitted by Pat Watson on 07/08/2014 - 11:20 am.

      Working together

      Ms. Peterson:

      You have a history of misquoting, mis-characterizing and mistaking comments people make. With that experience in mind, why would someone not record a conversation with you? Seems like its just commonsense, wouldn’t you agree?

      To your other point, I participated in the Minnesota Council of Churches “Respectful Conversations” series on Gun Violence (which I did NOT record) last fall. It was a wonderful, non-partisan dinner and frank discussion of feelings, values, and the conflict within each of us. You should try it sometime! My commentary on my experience (which you AGAIN misquoted and mis-characterized) was a positive one, and I did not disparage or belittle anyone in my remarks. The readers can see for themselves here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/10152367201117542/

      They can also read the response my post got from the MCC here: https://www.facebook.com/mnchurches/posts/10152029325400873

      I’m interested in honest discussion Joan, like we had in Duluth, and also believe there are people out there in this world who absolutely should NOT own a firearm. Why can’t you believe me, and not cast such insulting remarks about people working to prevent violence and accidents?

      • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/09/2014 - 07:32 am.

        Recording

        Did you inform Ms. Peterson (or any of the other involved parties) that you were recording the discussions taking place? That is typically how these things are done.

  8. Submitted by Brent Gurtek on 07/08/2014 - 10:56 am.

    Maybe we need to begin anew ….

    I’ve been involved in this issue for a decade now, mainly interested in plugging the loopholes in our nation’s gun laws. One of the chief insights I’ve realized in that time is that most of us are generally talking past each other – a common human failing and nothing to be ashamed of, I suppose.
    For sure, no one, on either side of the issue, wants to see gun violence remain high. (Happily, it is trending down for the most part, but still quite high when we compare ourselves to peer nations.)
    I think Mrs. Strawser and Watson are being reasonable when they say they don’t feel entirely welcome at PM events. These events are not neutral ground and thus not the best venues for the two sides getting together for open conversation. And though public debates would be helpful, and one between Ms. Peterson and Mr. Strawser would be a good one, there must also be something akin to Camp David-style “summit” meetings if we’re ever going to get around the deadlock. (It’s what’s missing in so many issues today – the public dialogue water hole seems irreversibly poisoned.)
    Being a gun guy who favors stronger gun laws has allowed me to visit both camps in the debate because I have a foot in each, much like Mr. Schoch. I can say that neither side is evil or stupid. And neither is always right or always wrong. For the good of public safety, as well as the protection of gun rights, they should come together to hash things out.
    Like the old saying, “Today can be a new beginning.” In spite of any current mistrust or animosity from passed occurrences, slights, etc, can we wipe the slate clean and do some sort of “summit” meetings? I’d be happy to act as a moderator with the help of others from both sides of the issue.

    • Submitted by Pat Watson on 07/08/2014 - 11:25 am.

      Beginning anew…

      Brent – you sound like someone I could talk with. I believe my email address is tied to my name above, feel free to send me a note.

  9. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 07/08/2014 - 12:16 pm.

    Ironic

    I find ironic that some who consider firearms a public health hazard are the first to call for legalization of certain illicit drugs.

    Truth be told, it’s not the firearms that irritate the anti gun crowd. It is the firearm owners who represent a segment of society that asks very little from government. Perhaps the biggest thing that we ask of our government is to leave us alone.

  10. Submitted by Barry Hirsh on 07/08/2014 - 02:08 pm.

    What so-called “gun victims” would do is a non sequitur

    Since nobody, “gun victims” or anybody else, has the legitimate power to deny fundamental rights, the question is inflammatory, sensational and ridiculous.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 07/08/2014 - 03:01 pm.

      Tell that

      to the parents who buried their six year kids a week before Christmas in 2012. Is that inflammatory enough for you?

  11. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 07/08/2014 - 05:59 pm.

    REJECT WN Our “Gimme My Guns” Friends,

    the same folk who have allowed the NRA and the weasel to convince them that “liberals” are plotting to take their guns away (and thereby massively increased the profits of the wealthy corporations that keep the NRA going as the gun lovers stocked up on guns and ammo before each election),…

    need a reality check.

    That reality is reflected in the statement, “When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

    What my “conservative,” gun-loving friends have failed to learn from history is that, once they have allowed themselves to be manipulated by the Randian/.5%ers into giving those folks absolute control over the government,…

    those in control will see the guns owned by lesser citizens as a threat to the liberty of those in control to continue to exploit the rest of us in order to continue to build their own wealth.

    Those former leaders of the gun lovers will then use the US military (and/or Xe if necessary), to confiscate the guns of all those who have finally awakened and begun to seek to take their country back from those they helped to steal it in the first place.

    If you take a few minutes, step back about a hundred paces, and look at the big picture, what’s revealed is this: the “liberals” do not, have not, and would not ever seek to confiscate your guns. “Conservatives,” on the other hand, will not hesitate to confiscate your guns as soon as they “believe” it’s in their interest to do so,…

    because what they “believe” has always and will always trump what the Bible or the Constitution of the US actually says.

    Right now the way gun lovers allow them to make those gun lovers paranoid while convincing them that buying more guns and ammo is the only protection against the (imaginary) “enemies” that surround them,…

    is making many of their leaders fabulously wealthy. Thus, they “believe” that the second amendment supports unlimited ownership of every kind of armament.

    As soon as those same leaders gain the power to take over and begin to feel threatened by all those armaments, they will “believe” the exact opposite.

    In other words, the fears of the “gun lovers” may yet have some basis in future facts,…

    but they are aiming those fears 180 degrees away from the correct target,…

    which is what will likely guarantee that those fears will become reality.

    They will never believe that the leaders they have trusted would so quickly, easily, and without the slightest hesitation, betray them,…

    until it’s too late,…

    but then it’s always been far easier to stab someone in the back when you’re a trusted friend, standing beside them, pointing them toward some imaginary enemy out there, somewhere,…

    (figuratively speaking, of course).

  12. Submitted by Richard Helle on 07/08/2014 - 09:43 pm.

    Mr Christenson

    If criminals continue to behave like criminals you will not be able to pass laws that will prevent them from acquiring firearms illegally. And as long as there are 300,000,000 + firearms you will never be able to prevent someone from acquiring a firearm illegally. I would assume you are advocating reducing the number of firearms as a way of making it more difficult for criminals to obtain them.

    • Submitted by Brent Gurtek on 07/09/2014 - 10:50 am.

      criminals and their behavior

      Mr. Christenson,

      You’re correct in that the bad guys will not comply with any guns laws – never have and never will. But fortunately tightly written background checks, stiff federal gun trafficking laws and safe gun storage don’t require their compliance to work. We need to take an engineer’s look at the crime gun issue. It’s really a question of material flow – a “guns in/guns out” phenomenon. (I guess this view comes from my engineering background.)

      Our country’s criminal gun arsenal is a very dynamic system of gun flow and at any given time probably represents several million firearms – mostly handguns. However the “half life” of a crime gun is likely just a few years because nationally the authorities confiscate about 500,000 of them annually.
      But regrettably every year, our loop-hole riddled, jurisdiction-ally limited gun laws allow another 500,000 guns into that criminal arsenal, thus replenishing it. It’s what engineers call a “steady state” condition; i.e., what comes in balances what goes out and nothing changes over time.

      Tight background checks, safe gun storage and stiff federal level anti-gun trafficking laws deal with the “guns in” part of the problem. Law enforcement is already doing a great job with the “guns out” part, but it’s like they’re bailing water on a leaky ship. The above laws act as the ship’s carpenter and plug the leaks.

      Two big “leaks” are purchase w/o a background check and gun theft – the latter likely the bigger of the two, and maybe by a good margin. So we need to focus on BC laws and safe storage, as well as ship the gun traffickers up river. If we get the “guns in” down to say, 300,000 per year, law enforcement’s continual confiscation effort will cause the total criminal arsenal to drop by 200,000 per year and eventually dry up, or nearly so.

      .

  13. Submitted by jody rooney on 07/11/2014 - 10:40 am.

    Perhaps we should define the problem and break it into

    more manageable pieces.

    We want to:

    1. Reduce the number of suicides by fire arm.
    2. Reduce the number of by standers killed by gang/drug violence (do we really care if criminals kill other criminals, I sure don’t)
    3. Reduce family, spousal murder.
    4. Reduce mass shootings.

    How about if we break those problems down and work on them?

    For those of you working on the issue it helps if you really define the problem first.

    And gun owners I suspect you may have a stake in those problems. That’s where the conversation needs to begin.

    • Submitted by Brent Gurtek on 07/11/2014 - 01:09 pm.

      Right on!

      Jody,

      You basically put the matter in better terms than I did: in effect, define the problem & split it into logically delineated pieces. (The four you describe are all gun violence issues, but they’re each mainly different in their nature, one from the other. They will require different solution types, though with some overlap.) It’s the only way to understand the root(s) of the problem and then come up with solutions that work on the ground.

      And you’re also correct that gun folks do have a stake in this and must be productively involved in the problem solving.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/14/2014 - 08:13 am.

    The pattern of obfuscation is clear here

    Looking at the comments one fact emerges: a number of people gun rights lobbyists have emerged complaining that they’re voices aren’t being heard- a laughable complaint given the fact that they’ve had hugely disproportionate influence on all gun policies and law making for decades. And secondly, contrary to their claims, they are not interested in dialogue. Looking at the previous 38 or so comments it’s clear the strategy is to keep claiming they’re will to dialogue, but somehow we get through 36 or so comments with no substantial dialogue of any kind taking place… and that’s not an accident.

    It’s not until Ms. Rooney finally tries to move the ball forward with a substantial attempt to simply clarify the issues that an opening for real dialogue emerges, and then we receive nothing but deafening silence from the erstwhile gun lobbyist who are sooooo eager to dialogue with us. Instead of talking to us here and now, we get dozens of complaints that someone somewhere else is refusing to talk to them. Keep your eye on the ball here, and don’t be fooled by such transparent obfuscatory tactics. If these people really wanted a dialogue, we’d be having a dialogue… no one here is preventing it.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/14/2014 - 08:52 am.

    Ms. Rooney’s manageable problems

    To summarize, here again are Ms. Rooney’s suggestions:

    1. Reduce the number of suicides by fire arm.
    2. Reduce the number of by standers killed by gang/drug violence (do we really care if criminals kill other criminals, I sure don’t)
    3. Reduce family, spousal murder.
    4. Reduce mass shootings.

    While I agree these are all things we would want to do, some are much more thorny than others.

    I’m afraid that wading into suicides might be a distraction for a variety of reasons.To begin with, it can create an illusion of progress. For instance, the number of suicides being committed with guns has actually been dropping for some reason, but the number of suicides is stable. So what are we saying? We’re going to claim success whenever we someone commits suicide with something other than a gun? Believe me, I’m familiar with the stats, and yes, in theory you might reduce young male suicides by reducing the number of guns in young male hands, but how does that work?

    This brings us to the implied solution as well as the explicitly stated solution in the article, some kind of mental health screening. Again, this extremely problematic. For one thing, our health care system in general in the United States is not a Cadillac model, and the mental health component is much less so. Unfortunately we fail to recognize most mental illness and our interventions are frequently slipshod. If you think THIS system is going to identify mentally and potentially dangerous gun owners or wannabe gun owners, you have an unrealistic notion of how our health care and mental health care system works. We can get into as much detail on this as anyone wants, but even with duty to warn statutes and what not, a person has to come into contact with mental health professionals somehow in order to be evaluated in the first place. What is the suggestion? That all gun buyers be given some kind of psych eval?

    The other problem with mental health screening ideas is very basic. You have to remember that even if someone has come into contact with mental health professionals, those interventions, treatments, evaluations, etc. are by law part of a private and protected medical record. You can’t just plug stuff like that into a database somewhere where law enforcement can access it. And even if law enforcement could access it, the practical matter of looking at someone’s medical records and deciding if they would be a safe gun owner is nearly impossible. There’s not check box on any psych eval for whether or not a patient should have a gun, and putting such a check box on an eval is extremely problematic.

    Beyond mental health screening for gun purchasers, one assumes that given a mental health evaluation of dangerousness, someone would be empowered to go out and take a gun away from a mentally ill person. Again, using psych evals as a justification for search warrants is actually kind of a spooky proposition for a variety of reasons. And again, who makes these determinations? Judges, cops, counselors, therapists? Think about it, you want to go marriage counseling and suddenly have the cops show up at your home or work with a search warrant because some therapist or social worker with two years of training decided you were a “risk” of some kind?

    I’m sorry but I just don’t see how you make that system work. And there’s a big difference between putting people on 72 hour holds, and ransacking their homes, vehicles, and work places looking for guns. Once you get beyond some kind of voluntary surrender it just gets really really really dicey.

    I know I don’t want to give law enforcement the power to crack open medical records, once they’re in there they can look at anything they want whether their supposed to or not. Look at the trouble we’ve had with cops accessing drivers license records for crying out loud, you want them browsing through your medical records?

    The mental health system is simply not a good safety net, nor can it be made to be a good safety net given the current state of the US health care system with or without Obamacare.

    • Submitted by Brent Gurtek on 07/15/2014 - 08:28 am.

      Good points

      Paul,

      As you outlined, the mental illness dimension to the gun violence issue is very problematic. A few folks on this comment thread I now personally are gun violence activists and can echo what you’ve said. In a democracy, there are good reasons to keep law enforcement more than at arms length from any medical records – especially regarding mental concerns. And, for the most part, those records must be sealed from the general public as well.
      Still, mental health advocates have shown that they wish to shore up mental illness record reporting in such a way that it would assist in keeping guns out of the wrong hands. (They did recently in Minnesota anyway.) Of course, the aforesaid caveats regarding privacy concerns allow them to go only so far. Still, it’s clear to me that the federal background check system would be enhanced to some degree by the mental illness data they feel can be safely opened to that system. And this is data the system currently does not have.
      On the point you made about the dialogue kinda’ falling off a cliff since Ms. Rooney gave her list, I think that may be to an extent a result of my busy schedule. At this hour, the ball is rather in my court to move things along, based on some e-mail contact I’ve had (off this thread) with a few of the comment contributors. Sorry for the delay. Things should open up for me tomorrow.

  16. Submitted by Kevin Vick on 02/02/2015 - 01:10 pm.

    So called “universal” Background Checks

    According to the Department of Justice, 40% of firearms used in crimes are obtained through family members or friends, 40% are obtained illegally/on the street, and 14% are obtained through dealers (subject to background checks). Please tell me how so called “universal” background checks will deter the already plummeting rate of gun crime?

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