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‘I trust Minnesota to fix this’: Walz exhorts rally on gun violence

“As someone who served 24 years in the military, I’m very familiar with these weapons. … I’ll tell you what I learned by that — and that is the damn things don’t belong on the streets of our country,” said Walz, flanked by a backdrop of Minnesota lawmakers and leaders.

With the sound of the Gov. Tim Walz-led chant of “Do something NOW” still echoing through the Minnesota state Capitol grounds Wednesday evening, word came from the podium at “Honor Them With Action — Rally Against Gun Violence and Hate” in St. Paul of shootings in Maplewood and a locked-down Regions Hospital. This after a week that shocked the nation, with 31 dead and a dozen more wounded in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

The sickening meta-news sent a shudder through the St. Paul crowd, gathered as they’d been to pay somber homage to the shooting victims of El Paso, Dayton, Gilroy, Sandy Hook, Columbine, etc., etc., and to yet again demand of Minnesota’s leaders stricter gun laws. With flags flying at half-staff over the Capitol dome, Walz’s speech proved impassioned, forceful, and practical.

“As someone who served 24 years in the military, I’m very familiar with these weapons. I’ve shot everything from 9 millimeters to cannon and rocket launchers, and I’ll tell you what I learned by that — and that is the damn things don’t belong on the streets of our country,” said Walz, flanked by a backdrop of Minnesota lawmakers and leaders that included MN Moms Demand Action co-leader Molly Leutz, Lt. Gov.  Peggy Flanagan, Rep. Dean Phillips, Imam Asad Zaman of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, Sami Rahamim of the Jewish Community Relations Council, state Sen. Ron Latz, and more.

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On a day that brought angry protesters to Trump’s visits to Dayton and El Paso, leaders in Minnesota raised their voices against racism and violence. “Change is coming, but it’s going to take relentless work,” said Philips, with a desperation and determination that was obviously shared by Walz and all concerned.

“All of you have to keep at it,” Choi told the crowd. “People talk about this tipping point, but this is tipped.”

“I’ll tell you what, I’m not waiting on Mitch McConnell. I trust Minnesota to fix this,” said Walz, after suggesting the state Legislature not wait until next session to vote on a gun-control bill.

Perhaps the rally’s most poignant response to the constant carnage came not from a politician but from a teenager from Eagan, who broke down in tears when detailing her fears to MinnPost. “I’m 14 years old,” said Jayna Anderson, as her mother consoled her. “I’m entering high school, and my main fear is getting killed while I’m at school.”

MinnPost took in the “Honor Them With Action — Rally Against Gun Violence and Hate” (co-presented by nonprofits Protect Minnesota and Moms Demand Action), in words and photos:

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Leslie Simone Firkins, Oakdale: “I take to heart every single one of these big shootings we hear about. I’m involved with Moms Demand Action, Protect Minnesota, and also Survivors Lead.

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“I’ll do whatever I can. It feels good to look around here and realize it’s not just me, it’s not just my kids, it’s not just other teachers that are out there worrying. It’s all of us. And they’ve done polls: Most of Minnesota wants these laws. I mean, look around at all these people who came out. For me, I needed this. I was pretty dark after the weekend.”     

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Tom Peterson, Minneapolis: “I was in Vietnam and carried an automatic weapon the whole time I was there, and I know what guns do. And since coming back, I’ve just never wanted to have anything to do with them. I’m sure if I had had one, I probably would have ended my life many times over the course of my life. I don’t want anyone to have a gun. I don’t think they’re very safe.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Phyllis Kerr, Woodland, Minnesota: “Our only choice we have right now is to keep showing up. We have nothing coming from the White House, and it’s pitiful. I think our president is ignorant. I think he is lazy. I think he is self-centered. I think he should never have been president to begin with, and it’s putting a lot of stalling in many parts of our country and many different ways and this one is enormously important. To have the NRA taking over in this respect, that kids don’t feel safe in school, people don’t feel safe going to Walmart … this is no way to live. We have to do better, we are better, there’s a whole bunch of better people out here, standing around us right now. If we continue to grow in our numbers, we can make a big difference. But we have to participate. We wait for action, but sometimes we’re the ones that need to act. I’m very sad with the way the nation is being led right now, and with these gatherings we have the opportunity to search for that better leadership, that better leadership within each one of us.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Mary McCann, Minneapolis: “[Trump] is just repeating what he’s learned and what all these other fellas might think. He’s not unique. He’s just the president, which makes it a shame that he is unable to even modify his speech on behalf of all of us. I would ask our leaders to really educate themselves, and not in a superficial way. Listen to doctors and academics and people in the community and experts in the arts; everybody who has reflected in a meaningful way about where this [racism] comes from.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

MN Moms Demand Action co-leader Molly Leutz spoke to a crowd that included Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Rep. Dean Phillips, Imam Asad Zaman of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, Sami Rahamim of the Jewish Community Relations Council, state Sen. Ron Latz, and more.

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“Let us be moved tonight to come together in community,” said Leutz. “To honor with action in a collective effort to fight gun violence everywhere. To disarm hate, white nationalism, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, Islamaphobia, anti-semitism, homophobia, transphobia, and bigotry in all forms that fuel violence. Let us demand action from our elected officials. Demand background checks on all gun sales. And strong red flag laws. We are grief stricken. We are angry. And it’s sometimes scary. But we are determined, and by this crowd I know we will keep showing up.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

The American and Minnesota state flags flew at half-staff in honor of victims of gun violence at the state Capitol Wednesday.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Gov. Tim Walz gestured to the half-staff American flag and addressed the “Honor Them With Action — Rally Against Gun Violence and Hate” crowd: “We see our flags once again flying at half-staff, and the sadness, and anger, and the primal rage that every time you see that, knowing what that symbolizes? That’s a birthday that will never happen. That’s a wedding that will never happen. That’s a grandparent that will never hold that child.

“Understand me and trust me, as someone who served 24 years in the military, I’m very familiar with these weapons. I’ve shot everything from 9 millimeters to cannon and rocket launchers, and I’ll tell you what I learned by that, and that is the damn things don’t belong on the streets of our country. I also know I spent a lifetime enjoying the outdoors and the freedoms that come with responsible firearms ownership, of hunting with my father, of being able to do the things that you enjoy doing in the outdoors and protecting that. And guess what? The things that we’re proposing to reduce senseless violence on our streets do nothing to infringe upon your right as a lawful gun owner to do those things. Nothing.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Dave Garibaldi (far left), Osseo: “[U.S. Sen.] Mitch McConnell has blocked the exact same bills that were blocked here at the state [Legislature] by Warren Limmer, who is my senator, and [Majority Leader] Paul Gazelka, and I think it’s high time that common-sense gun laws are put in place that can save some lives. This past week has proven to be another tragic time. We’ve just got to do something, so we’re here.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Anne Benson and Sadie Benson, Roseville: “I think the most important thing to remember is that at this point it’s happening so much we’re becoming desensitized to it,” said Anne. “I remember Sandy Hook the most vividly because that was the first big one that I can remember in my lifetime. At this point you’re hearing it so much that it’s easy to say, ‘That’s how it is now,’ but that shouldn’t be how it is now.” “Sometimes I don’t feel very safe in school, and I want to feel safe in school,” said Sadie. “I just hear it a lot on the news, and I feel bad for the kids who go through all that trauma.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Imam Asad Zaman of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota addressed the crowd: “I want to make a confession to you. I am one of those Minnesotans who does not want to get shot. So Minnesota voters who are against getting shot need to prioritize Minnesota legislators who will protect that right for me. I have another confession to make. As many of you may have noticed, I am not white. And the white supremacist ideology scares the Bejeezus out of me. ‘Bejeezus’ is a technical term. It means I’m very, very afraid.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Lisa Nilles, Minneapolis: “I made this sign after the Parkland shootings. I don’t want to carry this sign anymore. I don’t want to keep coming back here.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Beth Dawson, Eden Prairie: “I made this sign after the Parkland shooting. It’s insanity to think that things will get better if we don’t do something different.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Marla Vagts, Farmington: “I have two new grand babies, and when I heard the story of the couple who shielded their own child [in the El Paso Walmart], both of them passed away … The time for inaction is over. Families are dying.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Jayna Anderson and Jolynda Anderson, Eagan: “My daughter asked me to come. She’s a really strong advocate for human rights and she always keeps me up to date with what’s going on in the world, and we owe more to our kids to keep them safe, because it just keeps getting worse and worse,” said Jolynda. “I’m entering high school and I’m really scared,” said Jayna, wiping tears from her cheeks. “I’m really scared about a lot of things, like classes and homework and things, but my main fear is getting killed while I’m at school. School has always been a safe place, and it’s not a safe place anymore because there’s a fear of running through your classrooms getting shot. My friends and I, we all know if an active shooter came in, where would we hide, and the fact that I’m only 14 and I have to ask myself where I would hide and have to know these answers, it’s just horrible. And I can’t sit around, I have to do something.”